Ambassador Yi Xianliang Interviewed by Klassekampen on Xinjiang Related Issues
驻挪威使馆
2021/07/01

1. Human rights groups and news media have concluded that at least one million Uyghurs are put in what is often referred to as concentration camps. Is this figure valid? What goes on in these camps?Are the people inside the camps free to leave if they wish?

There is no so-called "concentration camp" in China.Internationally recognized "camps" in recent years are not located in China. About the figure of 1 million, we should take a look at wh ere it originated first. Mainly from two "studies" :

The first "study" was done by the anti-China Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) with interviews of only EIGHT people. The CHRD applied the estimated ratio shown in this absurdly small sample to the whole of Xinjiang, drawing a crude conclusion that one million people were detained in the "re-education detention camps"

The second "study" was done by a far-right fundamentalist Christian Adrian Zenz. Zenz is also a member of Communism Memorial Foundation and he claims he is "led by God" on a "mission" against China. He also admitted that he is "Commissioned by BBC to conduct the research". Zenz based his conclusion on a single report by Istiqlal TV, Istiqlal TV advances separatism while playing host to an assortment of extremist figures. One such character who often appears on Istiqlal TV is Abduqadir Yaqupjan, a leader of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a UN designated terrorist organization. These are the origination of this widely quoted figure, how credible is it?

The vocational education and training centres in Xinjiang is an educational institute, similar to a boarding school, trainees pay home visits or ask for absents to attend private affairs, upon completion of the training program, they will graduate. By the end of 2019, all trainees took part in the de-radicalization programs have graduated. The centers provided courses on standard spoken and written Chinese language, legal knowledge, professional skills and de-radicalization. The courses including garment making, food processing, assembly of electronic products, typesetting and printing, hairdressing and beauty services, e-commerce, auto maintenance and repair, interior design and decoration, livestock breeding, pomiculture, therapeutic massage, household services, handicrafts, flower arrangement, rug weaving, painting, and the performing arts such as music and dance. Eligible trainees who are willing to learn are offered training in more than one skill to ensure they are employable in the jobs market upon completing their study. Centers employ bilingual teachers, Halal food and 24-hour medical facilities are provided free of charge, with ready living and entertainment facilities on site. Is there such kind of "concentration camp" in the world?

Many trainees find new and well paid jobs after graduation, thanks to the skills they obtained. Some countries resorting to using force to fight terrorism, China believes that it is better to find the root cause, which is poverty, lack of development and dashed hope. The purpose of the establishment of education and training centers is to free people from the influence of extreme ideas, regain hope through providing practical skills and national language. In the past four years, there has not been a single terrorist attack in Xinjiang. This is China's successful experience in solving the problem of terrorism. Regrettably, some people seem to be more willing to listen to those who have never been to Xinjiang than to really understand Xinjiang. China has repeatedly invited the UN Human Rights Commissioner and EU envoys to China to visit Xinjiang, but they have not accepted the invitations yet.

2. China is accused of genocide in Xinjiang. What is your response to those allegations?

This is absolutely untrue, I believe most of the people who made these allegations have never been to Xinjiang. In the past 40 years, the Uyghur population in Xinjiang has more than doubled. From 2010 to 2020 alone, Uyghur population in Xinjiang has increased by 1.623 million, an increase of 16.2%, which is much higher than the national level. In recent years, the government has invested nearly 400 billion yuan (520 billion kronor) every year to support Xinjiang's economic and social development. Xinjiang's per capita income has maintained an average annual growth of 7.4% in the past five years. Xinjiang has 25,000 mosques in 2020, while the number in 1984 was 9,000. Is there such kind of "genocide" in the world?

Stepping out of the disinformation from some media, Uyghurs lead a normal life just like any other ethnic groups in China. Among them are our close colleagues, Ambassadors, police and service members, well-known scholars, popular movie and TV drama stars. Of course, most of them are ordinary people who work hard and and try to have better lives. I visited Xinjiang every year before leaving for Norway, it is a truly beautiful place. I also made many friends from different ethnic groups. With splendid scenery, rich culture and warm and hospital people, it is worth a visit. Before the outbreak of COVID19, a total of nearly 200 million tourists from all around the world visited Xinjiang in 2019. I believe there are many friends from Norway too. In fact, it is not difficult to see the essence of the so called Xinjiang issue. The people of Xinjiang are all over social media, "basking" their daily lives and their sorrows and joys. If you really want to understand Xinjiang, I sincerely welcome everyone to pay a visit and chat with locals. I believe one will have a much different opinion then.

Since the end of 2018, there have been more than 90 groups comprised of over 1400 people from over 100 countries visited the education and training centres, including UN officials, foreign envoys, representatives of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, permanent representatives of relevant countries in Geneva, reporters and religious groups. A Turkish reporter wrote after his trip to Xinjiang "Western media portrayed negative image of Xinjiang, saying things including 'concentration camps', I had believed it. When I visited, my prejudice disappeared, what I saw is school with students taking part in training programs, improving themselves and coming out as better person. The atmosphere there is very nice and it would definitely help the students to reintegrate into society"

3. Do you see the claims about genocide as an attempt to promote a "New Cold War" between the U.S./the West and China? If so, what is the motive?

I am not in the position to speculate on the origin of other countries' policies. But Spreading lies, and slander other countries, Why? It puzzles me too. To find the answer, you may need to ask the governments of those countries directly. China does not intend to challenge or replace anyone, nor does it want to threat any country. China is a developing country with a population of more than 1.4 billion, the per capita GDP has just reached US$10,000, while Norway stands at US$67,000. We still have a long way to go to reach the level of countries like Norway. We have just eliminated absolute poverty, there are still 600 million people living with a monthly income of around 1,000 yuan (1,300 kronor). There are cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but there are also vast areas still in urgent need of development, including my hometown. Therefore, China is most concerned about improving the well-being of its own people. The top agenda of our government is to meet the people's growing needs for a better life. To engage in confrontation with some countries is neither in line with Chinese traditions nor with China's reality. China's foreign policy has been consecutive, that is, to develop a win-win cooperation relationship in the spirit of equality and mutual respect. Of course, this requires all nations to work in the same direction. In the process of China's development, we always welcome kind reminders and suggestions from friends, but allegations based on lies are blasphemy against the entire Chinese people, including the Uyghur people. We will never accept allegations.

Recently, certain people and organizations have initiate an all-round and systematic disinformation campaign on Xinjiang-related issues. Putting aside a large number of the unverifiable "testimonies", I will just cite two examples: Zenz framed the expansion of public health care services in Xinjiang as evidence of a genocide, he pointed to a photograph of Uyghur residents receiving medical consultation as part of an "effort to enforce the thorough implementation of increasing intrusive birth control efforts."

However, the original report containing this photo was actually describing how residents receiving medical consultation at a free health clinic. I also found similar scenario in Norway. In a Xinjiang-related report, a reporter quoted Chinese officials saying "Destroy origin, roots and connections", "Show no mercy". But interestingly, the original full sentence is "Destroy origin, roots, connections of extremism", and "Show no mercy to violent terrorists". There are countless examples like this. As I mentioned, China has taken effective measures to successfully contain the spread of extremism and terrorism. It is in stark contrast with the methods taken by certain countries, which usually involves invasion and bombing, creating new issues such as humanitarian crisis and refugee problem. In this regard, China has found a new path to fight extremism. This is precisely the reason why the vast majority of nations, including Muslim countries, support China on this matter. Xinjiang has suffered gravely from terrorism, that is a cruel experience which no one should endure. Be it "genocide" or "forced labor", behind the disguise, they are actually attacking China's counter terrorism and de-radicalization efforts, the intention behind it indeed worth pondering.

To the readers, I believe everyone should listen to different voices and have their own opinions, but I hope that next time, when someone trying to tell you things happened in Xinjiang, maybe its better to ask yourself "does this person really understand Xinjiang? Where did his/her information regarding Xinjiang come from?" first, and make independent judgments.

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