Towards the end of 2019, I wrote a long article on the distressing situation in Xinjiang, where China’s Communist Party (the CCP) was carrying out systematic imprisonment, brainwashing and organ harvesting of Uighur Muslim local population.
It is truly the closest thing to the Holocaust that we have seen since.
An ethnic cleansing carried out in a very modern way, where it is not just a race, but culture and ideology which are being eradicated.
Nine months later, I’m surprised to see it on the front cover of the Economist. Want to know why?
We in the West have carefully avoided mainstream coverage of this issue.
China is an octopus with a million tentacles. Its grip is gently worming its way into and around institutions across the world – Australian universities, American companies, Western media agencies.
When the footballer Mesut Özil spoke out on this issue, he was eradicated from all Chinese video games and the Chinese internet, and left in the cold by his club and his sport, even his former manager.
So, depressingly, it’s amazing to actually see it taking centre stage in a major paper/magazine.
Hopefully, this will pave the way for more widespread and mainstream coverage of this astonishing issue.
Anyway, as it wasn’t in this newsletter that I wrote my take on the issue last year, I am going to re-publish it here, now.
The Communist Party in China is just the latest iteration of 7,000 years of dynastic rule. Authoritarian, and absolute.
And it is strengthening its authority as the country’s economy grows, rather than democratising.
Today, I’m going to outline something that’s going on in China that hasn’t received nearly enough coverage. Maybe you have read about it already, maybe not, but I think it’s important for everyone to know about.
It concerns the province of Xinjiang, in Northwest China.
China is so vast, that some of its eastern territories have more in common with the central Asian countries than with Beijing or Shanghai. China isn’t happy about this, as it wants to promote racial and cultural unity.
Investors should take note, and tread very carefully.
A lot of fearful prognostications by doom-sayers suggest that on our current path, society as we know it will spiral into an Orwellian nightmare, as envisioned by the great author in his work 1984. Think V for Vendetta if you haven’t read much Orwell before.
The fear is that an authoritarian government would now have unprecedented tools at its disposal for surveillance and control of a population. Thanks Google.
But conspiracy theorists they may no longer be, as it seems that Orwell’s dystopia exists in real life – in Xinjiang, China.
The province is largely populated by Uighurs, or Uyghurs.
Using some separatist and student violence as a pretext, a huge operation has been taken to assert state control over every aspect of life in Xinjiang.
And if what some people are saying is true, it goes far beyond Orwell’s worst nightmare.
It was brought to Western attention in bits and pieces, as journalists have been denied access to all but the most controlled, prepared events or interviewees.
Surveillance of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang has been ratcheted up to extreme levels, justified by China as a measure to counter terrorist, extremist and separatist movements in the area.
For example, the practice of religion is all but banned in the region. This carries echoes of the persecution of the quasi-religious belief system called “Falun Gong” that grew rapidly in China, before being violently crushed by the state.
Those three threats have been used to justify entirely disproportionate responses.
As the Guardian puts it: “Chinese authorities have split up families, targeted the Uighur language and culture for suppression, razed cultural and historic sites and criticised even mild expression of Muslim identity, micromanaging everything from beard length to babies’ names.”
Certain astonishing lengths have been taken to achieve this. Han Chinese workers have been placed in Uighur homes as uninvited guests, to monitor their behaviour, actions and conversations. Phone-owners are forced to download apps which monitor every bit of data passing through the device.
Biometric data is collected, from fingerprints to facial recognition scans, so that Uighurs can be kept from travelling or going to certain places, as the surveillance network of cameras uses artificial intelligence to track millions of live streams to stop “dangerous” individuals moving around.
But the most extreme response is the detention camps, or “re-education” centres that have sprung up over the region. Upwards of 1 million Uighur Muslims have been confined in these facilities, often for months or years at a time. Practitioners of Falun Gong are also targeted and imprisoned, and have been for a long time too.
This has led to widespread separation of parents from their children, which go to orphanages.
The mass internment programme has left many minority children without their parents; the authorities have built a network of de facto orphanages and boarding schools that can bring the children up in Han Chinese environments.
China claims that the adult Uighurs volunteer for re-education, so that they can learn the national Han Chinese language, some skills for jobs, and loyalty to the CCP.
Chinese diplomats and officials vigorously defend the camps and lengthy stays as necessary to combat terrorism and extremism. [Note: this recent interview with Andrew Marr was a particularly vomit-inducing affair.]
But the growing consensus among those in the West who are looking at this issue is that the enrolment process is anything but voluntary.
What China calls “re-education”, many here be called brainwashing.
And it seems that the re-education centres are for more prison-like than their name suggests.
Personal testimonies from escapees suggests that brainwashing, beating, denial of medical treatment and worse go on in the camp.
On 24 November 2019 the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published a 2017 classified directive issued by Zhū Hǎilún, the head of the leading security administration of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Zhu notes that camp workers “must never allow escapes, never allow trouble, never allow attacks on staff, never allow abnormal deaths.”
The leaked documents also outline what officials should say to students who return from school or university to find empty homes [translated by fairplanet.org]:
“Did they commit a crime?” a student might ask. “Will they be convicted?”
The directed response has to be: “They haven’t committed a crime and won’t be convicted. It is just that their thinking has been infected by unhealthy thoughts, and if they don’t quickly receive education and correction, they’ll become a major active threat to society and to your family. It’s very hard to totally eradicate viruses in thinking in just a short time.”
Essentially, reports generally conclude that over a million members of the Uighur ethnic minority are having their identities forcefully reshaped, against their will.
Pretty amazing stuff so far, and a scary example of what an authoritarian leadership can do with modern technology. But it’s possible that it gets worse.
The Organ Issue
The waiting time for organ transplant surgery in the UK or the US is usually upwards of a year.
In China, it’s in the weeks or sometimes even days.
So stark is the difference that “organ tourism” has become common, with desperate patients travelling to China to receive transplants. Agencies have been set up to facilitate this for foreigners.
The organ tourism trade now amounts to a $1 billion industry for China.
But how are they doing it? How can they have a turnaround so high that it’s even possible to schedule organ transplants in advance of the organ becoming available?
The fear is that organs are being harvested from the inhabitants of the camps, from the so-called “prisoners of conscience”.
China has previously admitted to harvesting organs from executed criminals but claims to have halted this particular practice in 2015. What is being suggested now is far more horrific.
All “prisoners of conscience”/voluntary students at the camps are subjected to multiple medical tests – for facial recognition, blood type, and all report having full-body organ scans.
The China Tribunal
The China Tribunal is an independent investigatory committee set up to investigate whether organs are indeed being harvested, and it came to some very disturbing conclusions.
Chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, a British barrister, it examined thousands of pages of submissions, including previous investigations and academic papers, internal Chinese medical records, and reports from Amnesty International, independent watchdog group Freedom House and the United Nations Committee Against Torture.
It reviewed undercover video footage taken inside Chinese hospitals, covert telephone recordings with Chinese transplant surgeons, and heard from 50 witnesses, some of whom appeared in person and others via video link, from France, Canada, the US, Japan, Australia, Turkey and Korea.
It concluded that illicit organ transplants have become a lucrative industry in China, directed by the state, and enabled by the military.
“Prisoners of conscience”, both Uighur and Falun Gong, are the organ bank of the industry.
Geoffrey Nice and the panel effectively accused the People’s Republic of China of having committed mass murder, and warned that governments or any other bodies that engaged with it in any substantial way “should now recognise that they are interacting with a criminal state”.
A senior lawyer from the tribunal, Hamid Sabi, said this, “victim for victim and death for death, cutting out the hearts and other organs from living, blameless, harmless peaceable people constitutes one of the worst mass atrocities of this century.”
As it was a legal investigation, it is saying that it is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the practice of harvesting organs for transplants from detained Uighurs and religious prisoners is continuing in the camps in Xinjiang today.
Geoffrey Nice told the UN that the international community “can no longer avoid what is inconvenient for them to admit”.
It’s terrifying to think that this could be going on, and genuinely hard to believe.
Remember, China openly admits to building and operating the re-education camps for the Uighur population, defending it, and what it says goes on inside them as justifiable counter-terrorism measures.
At the UN, 54 countries (including Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Belarus) chose to praise China’s actions in the region and defending human rights while successfully countering terrorism, despite the verdict given by the China Tribunal.
What is the world doing about this?
Well this is the thing – at the moment it’s pretty hard to prove, as access is very limited and China denies the more extreme accusations and defends the increased surveillance and re-education of Uighurs as a justifiable response to the threat of terrorist extremism in the region.
But over the last year, international recognition of what’s going on has resulted in increased concerns being raised.
This time last year, over 270 scholars from 26 countries published a statement condemning the “mass human rights abuses and deliberate attacks on indigenous cultures” in China.
The World Trade Organisation, which had in 2015 given a $50 million grant for “education” to the province of Xinjiang, has since announced that given concerns about what’s happening in the region, it’s scaling back its involvement and lending programme there.
In late 2019, the Senate in the US overwhelmingly approved a bill (the Uighur Act of 2019) requiring the Donald Trump administration to toughen its stance on the issue. It passed by 407 votes to 1.
In October 2019, the UN issued a document signed by 22 nations (including the UK, Australia, France, Germany, and Japan) which called on the Chinese government to “ uphold its national laws and international obligations and commitments to respect human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, in Xinjiang and across China.”
All this is incredibly scary. The evidence from the UN, the US Senate, and the China Tribunal adds up to a damning case of both the detainment and likely organ-harvesting from over a million Uighur Muslim and other religious minorities in Xinjiang.
The Xinjiang issue may well be the first major wake-up call to the permanent end of cordial relations between East and West.
Invest carefully and all the best.
PS This cartoon went viral, and I suggest giving it a read, as personal testimony is more powerful than any third-party article or news can be. China has obviously refuted all claims made.
Sadly, there wasn’t much updating required as I went through it this morning.
Little has changed, though and brief outings into the spotlight of major news organisations have proven fleeting. The Economist has dedicated this week’s issue to the topic (better late than never), which reflects a growing desire to report on this issue.
Here at Southbank Investment Research, two colleagues produced what remains the most thorough and brilliant (if that’s the right word) research on this, which goes into much greater depth than my article.
I do recommend you read it. It’s from a paid publication, but so many people asked to share it, that as a one-off, a free version was created.
All the best,
Editor, UK Uncensored