EVER since last year, there has been an unusual amount of hype around Xinjiang issues on the western media.
New York Times, CNN and others in the gang have spared no effort in making up horrifying headlines like “China detaining Muslims in vast numbers”, “Millions sent to concentration camp by the government”, “Largest human rights crisis since the 1990s”, etc.
Sensationalism aside, one may wonder: how many of these stories are based on facts? How many of them are not telling half-truths? In this regard, today I want to share something that western media never told you.
The western media claimed that Muslims are being tortured. They claimed that China is cleansing its citizens of Muslim religion and culture.
However, they didn't tell you that the Chinese government has always been protecting freedom of religious belief and safeguarding the legal rights and interests of minorities, strictly prohibiting any discrimination and oppression against the latter.
There are 200 million religious believers in China, and 20 million of them are Muslims, among which Hui and Uighur Muslims make up the majority.
In Kuala Lumpur, many halal noodle restaurants are run by Chinese Hui Muslim. In Xinjiang, halal restaurants are everywhere. Not only the number of halal restaurants far surpasses non-halal ones, but also their popularity.
In Xinjiang, there are now over 28,000 religious sites and close to 30,000 clerical personnel.
Every 530 Muslims in Xinjiang have a mosque on average, which is higher than many Muslim countries such as Turkey.
What minorities in China like Uighur are facing is not torture, but policies and social welfares far more favourable than what their Han brethren are enjoying.
In order to raise the ratio of minorities’ population, Uighurs and other minorities were exempted from the One Child Policy for 10 years, and are still enjoying reasonably relaxed policies.
Some minority farmers and herdsmen are allowed to raise up to four children. In terms of education, while the general practice in China is nine-year compulsory education, Xinjiang is the first province to practice15 year compulsory education.
Every year millions of Chinese high school students compete in Gaokao, or national college entrance examination, which is probably one of the most crucial moments in their lives.
Chances are that minority students from Xinjiang and other provinces are awarded with 50 to 60 extra points, meaning they will be well ahead of Han students in terms of ranking by a large margin of several hundred thousands.
In China, where the area of arable land per person is less than one-third of the world average, where land rents in major cities are almost sky-high, Muslims still keep their religious burial tradition, whereas Han people are to be cremated after death.
The western media claimed that China is oppressing Uighurs and other minorities in the name of counter-terrorism and counter-extremism.
However they didn't tell you that Xinjiang, especially its southern parts, has long been the target of terrorism and extremism infiltration from terrorist organisations such as East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) since 1990s.
These foreign organizations demanded fund support from local families, and “encouraged” their children to go to illegal religious institutes instead of regular schools, where they indoctrinated the children with extremist ideologies. Some separatists blatantly called for the “independence” of Xinjiang and the establishment of a so-called ecclesiastical “East Turkestan”.
From 1990 to 2016, the extremists, terrorists and separatists have committed thousands of terrorist attacks in all parts of Xinjiang, resulting in property damage beyond estimation, and huge casualties of both civilians and police officers.
The darkest day in Xinjiang’s recent history came on July 5, 2009, when hundreds of Uighur extremists outright rioted and rampaged on the streets of Urumqi and assaulted defenseless civilians.
At the end of the day, 197 were killed and m
ore than 1,700 were injured. This truly merciless attack was condemned by Juma Tahir, the Imam of Id Kah Mosque, as an organised, premediated violent attack perpetrated by separatists in the name of religion.
Regrettably, Imam Juma Tahir was assassinated 5 years later by three extremists outside the mosque after the morning Fajr prayer, and the sole reason for his death was because he was an outspoken adversary of extremism and terrorism.
It was in a grim situation like this that the central government and government of Xinjiang Autonomous Region decided to take measures to crackdown on extremism and terrorism, to prevent their expansion preemptively, and to eliminate them from the root.
Thanks to these measures, Xinjiang, once haunted by the dread of terrorism, has not seen a single case of terrorist attack for three years. People now feel safe and secure day and night, both inside and outside their homes. In 2018, tourism in Xinjiang has surged significantly.
A total of 150 million tourists had visited Xinjiang, recording a 40 percent year-to-year increase. Among those tourists, 2.4 million of them were foreign tourists, increasing 10 percent.
People who have been to Xinjiang are all in awe of its tranquility, beauty and prosperity.The western media claimed that the vocational education and training centres are so-called “concentration camps”, where Muslims are cruelly restrained and “brainwashed”.
However, they didn't tell you that the training centres are just like ordinary boarding schools. Students pursue their studies during the day.
They have every means of communication. They can return home on weekends, and they can call a day-off when they need to. Through these training programmes, students acquire knowledges, vocational skills and means for making a living.
After graduation, most of them would successfully reintegrate into the society, get a job, start a business and ultimately, start a new life. In fact, some students are sent to the training centres by their families just for them to get rid of extremist ideologies and return to a normal life.
When the Malaysian delegation visited one of the training centres, a student who majored in fashion designing had revealed that she voluntarily asked for 3 more months of training in order to better grasp the skill.
The western media claimed that at the United Nations General Assembly meeting, 23 countries including the United States had pointed their fingers at China on Xinjiang issues.
However they didn't tell you that most of these 23 countries above-mentioned were western countries or allies of the US.
There was not a single Muslim country, not a single developing country among them.
The western media also won’t tell you that during the exact same meeting, 66 countries, through joint or separate statements, have complimented China’s great human rights progress and its policies in Xinjiang, while at the same time objecting to others meddling with China’s internal affairs.
Instead of a single bloc, these countries come from all parts of the world and almost 30 of them are Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt.
Recently the western media like New York Times have made some lengthy stories about what they believe to be the “internal documents” of the Chinese government on Xinjiang. However, what they are really doing is bait-and-switch, substituting false claims for the truth. For example, they take the liberty to use the term “no-mercy” on all Uighurs, which is in fact a term only for terrorists.
And they didn't tell you that since 2015, the Chinese government has published seven white papers, introducing in full detail the ethnicity and religion policies, counter-terrorism measures and human rights progresses in Xinjiang.
The western media have turned a blind eye on these positive and constructive information, while obstinately chasing after falsehoods and partial-truths. It really makes us wonder, whether the western media truly cares about Muslims in Xinjiang, or are they just exploiting the Xinjiang issue, out of some hidden
agendas, as means to demonise China?
After the Sept 11 attacks, the US started a massive campaign to beat down terrorism and labelled itself as a global counter-terrorism leader.
Curiously enough, when facing the terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, the U.S. never hesitated a second to offer its praises, euphemistically calling the attacks “the beginning of democratisation in China”. The US even goes to the length of colluding with ETIM by providing the latter with fund and moral supports.
We just have to ponder, what ominous intents are really hiding behind this good show of double standard at its finest. A proverb in China goes like “three liars makes a tiger”, which means that a wide spread lie may even become the truth for some people.
For the western countries who are in full control of a majority of the news agencies and social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, it is just a piece of cake for them to scandalize and defame a country to fulfil their political agenda.
As a fast growing developing country, China is no stranger to the suppression and impedance from certain big powers.
In order to curb China’s development, they resort to all kinds of excuses and pretenses such as ethnicity, religion, human rights, democracy and freedom, disregard all facts and truth, and keeps intervening in China’s internal affairs.
Hong Kong and Xinjiang issue are no exception. Beneath these high walls built by their gigantic propaganda machine, many facts and truths may be buried deep, waiting to be discovered by clever and adept readers.
To let the truth be known, since the end of 2018, the Chinese side has invited more than one thousand foreign delegates to visit Xinjiang, including Malaysian officials, journalists and Muslim groups.
The delegates have seen with their own eyes the social economic development and the real situation in Xinjiang, including the training centres. Lots of delegates have admitted that Xinjiang is anything but what the western media claimed.
Datuk Haji Mohamad Nordin bin Ibrahim, Director General of JAKIM, has written in Sinar what he has seen, that the Chinese government respects the freedom of religious belief of Uighurs in Xinjiang, protecting in full measure their language, customs and cultural heritages.
The ethnic communities in Xinjiang care about the lives of ethnic minorities and it is a common thing for minorities to help and support each other.
Mainstream media in Indonesia like Metro TV and Media Indonesia, after their visit to Xinjiang, have expressed their frank opinions that Xinjiang pays high attention in cultivating religious understandings among believers and in training cleric personnel.
China is in no way an anti-Islam country, and measures taken by Xinjiang government in preventing and battling terrorism and extremism should be supported.
The wise do not buy rumours, as more and more people are giving their recognitions to China’s policies on ethnic minorities and religions that are suitable to our national conditions.
China’s efforts in preventing and combating extremism and terrorism are also gaining more endorsement. In the future, we are willing to invite more foreign friends, including Malaysia, to visit Xinjiang.
I hope more of you can find by your own eyes the tireless efforts by the Chinese government to make Xinjiang a land of peace, harmony, stability and development.
I hope more of you can find in Xinjiang those truths that the western media have never intended to tell you.
The writer is China's ambassador to Malaysia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times.