This article was originally published on Nachdenkseiten.
Much has been written in the past three years about Xinjiang and the alleged human rights violations against the Uyghur minority. And for those who have followed the Western reporting closely, there should be little doubt that the most serious accusation against the Chinese government, that of genocide against a Muslim minority, has now been proven. Terms such as “systematic persecution”, “concentration camp” and “genocide” have been an integral part of many articles on Xinjiang since 2019 at the latest, and since 2021 more and more official voices have been heard calling China to account for its human rights violations.
In January of this year, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used one of his last official acts to officially accuse China of genocide. In February, the Canadian House of Commons passed a resolution calling for China’s actions in Xinjiang to be called genocide. In the same month, the Netherlands passed a similar resolution. On March 8th, the Newlines Institute published the study “The Uyghur Genocide”, which comes to the unequivocal conclusion that China is responsible for a genocide. At the end of March, the Biden government confirmed Pompeo’s assessment. Similar declarations from Great Britain and Lithuania have followed in April and May.
In May, a member of the German Green Party in the European Parliament, Margarete Bause, published a report she had commissioned from the Bundestag’s scientific service, which also came to the conclusion that China’s approach is, based on German legal opinion and measured against the UN International Convention, a genocide indeed. As a result, the Bundestag Committee for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid held a public hearing almost a week later, on May 17th, 2021, in order to make its own assessment. And although the situation seems to be clear not only for five NATO partners, but also for international research institutes and the scientific service of the Bundestag, the hearing, contrary to expectations, comes to the conclusion that genocide in Xinjiang cannot be regarded as proven. A surprising finding that begs the question of how after three years of extensive coverage of a crime as serious as genocide, there can be more than one opinion. What is happening in Xinjiang? Are the Uyghurs really victims of genocide?
The question of demographic genocide
Genocide is one of the most serious crimes a state can be charged with. The mass murder of an ethnic or religious minority – the definition that probably best reflects the understanding of the German public – is a rare and exceptionally brutal act, an escalation of state violence. To be held responsible for a genocide is seen as such a disgrace that even mass murders by states historically classified as genocide can lead to diplomatic scandal decades later. Especially for Germans, the topic is fraught with deep emotions due to the Holocaust. It is therefore not surprising that years of coverage of “massive persecution”, “forced labor”, “concentration camps” and “genocide” in connection with Xinjiang can only lead to the conviction that China is repeating the crimes of the Third Reich .
But if China really did systematic mass murder, it would be mass murder that, contrary to expectations, results in population growth, income and educational opportunities, which does not trigger mass exodus and for which there is neither photo nor video evidence. It would also be the first mass murder to lead to a travel boom. Last year alone, over 150 million tourists visited the region. There is no data that could credibly substantiate a mass murder of the Uyghurs, and accordingly it is an indictment that is only brought up by dubious sources.
The clearest sign that in Xinjiang there is no mass murder is that even the most popular indictments on China do not charge murder, but merely prevented births. The most prominent study on the subject comes from the German Adrian Zenz, who has already made a name for himself through a large number of comparable publications on the subject of Xinjiang. It was presented in June 2020 at the Washington D.C. based Jamestown Foundation. The theses of this study were then quoted dozen of times in the media and therefore deserve closer attention.
Even Zenz does not cite mass murder, but the significantly increased sterilization rates since 2017 and at the same time sharply declining birth rate in Xinjiang as “up to this point in time the best evidence” of genocide according to the UN genocide convention. The Genocide Convention states, among other things, that the suppression of births can be considered genocide as long as it is used as an instrument for the annihilation of a religious or ethnic group. The sharp drop in the birth rate and the sharp increase in sterilization in Xinjiang since 2017 cited in the study is indeed a fact. So is it, if not mass murder, at least genocide in the sense of the genocide convention?
The question of the “creeping” genocide
This conclusion appears questionable because, on the one hand, birth regulation in China is not exclusive to Xinjiang, but rather a nationwide phenomenon, and on the other hand, the Uy
Uyghur population continues to grow despite all measures. Zenz’ own study puts the growth of the minority at almost 20% between 2010 and 2018. In the same period, the growth of the German population was below 2%. Other data, such as birth or sterilization rates, are actually subject to large changes, reflecting government intervention in the areas of family planning and health care. But they are not exceptional in an international comparison. The birth rate (births per 1,000 inhabitants) fell by almost 50% within two years and, at 8.14, was even below Germany’s rate of 9.4 in 2019. This is also below average for China, but the birth rate in Shanghai is even lower and nobody there would accuse the Chinese government of planning a genocide.
Zenz argues that sterilizations in Xinjiang have increased tenfold since 2014, in direct contrast to the national trend. In 2018, they were around 2.4 per thousand. This increase can partly be explained by the fact that until a few years ago, contraception was limited or not available at all in many parts of Xinjiang, and the Chinese government has invested billions in expanding the health system in Xinjiang since 2017. This expansion of the health system resulted, among other things, in over 9,000 dispensing points where common contraceptives were made available to the population free of charge across the province. An increase in the use of contraceptives was a foreseeable consequence. At the same time, the nationwide guidelines for family planning, which allow city-resident couples to have two children and rural couples to have three children, were introduced in Xinjiang for the first time in 2017. Violations now resulted in fines, and the renouncement of children was financially supported.
The sudden increase in spiral deployments in 2017-18 is primarily due to the population’s attempt to avoid negative financial consequences and the pressure from the authorities to comply with the law. It is probable that the actions of the authorities and the threat of fines made it impossible to distinguish between pressure and the obligation to sterilize. In spite of all this, however, it is a question of the implementation of standards for family planning that already exist in the rest of the country, and not of the targeted repression of a particular ethnic group. The level of 2.4 per thousand is comparable to that of industrialized nations and is therefore to be regarded as above average due to the very different socio-economic realities in Xinjiang. But as in industrialized nations, this suggests a targeted investment in public health rather than genocide.
Zenz’ study shows gross technical errors. One of the most cited findings is that 80% of all new spiral deployments in China in 2018 would have been carried out in Xinjiang. Since Xinjiang’s population is just 2% of the total Chinese population, this would have been a cause for concern. The correct number, however, was 8.7%. A spiral insertion graph suggested, due to incorrect information about the order of magnitude, that every single woman in Xinjiang has to endure 4-8 spiral insertion per day. Further examples of questionable use of data resulted in the accusation from the academic side that Zenz was converting banal, publicly available information on family planning into genocide. The fact that Zenz’ study was able to enjoy such a high level of attention in the western media landscape despite these technical shortcomings and despite previous publications of comparable quality should be regarded as questionable.
Ultimately, however, the state of affairs regarding the population development in Xinjiang is so clear that even voices critical of China such as Theo Sommer of Die Zeit came to the conclusion that there was no question of demographic genocide. But at least China has to be accused of cultural genocide or, as Sommer puts it: “Now a culture is being wiped out.”
The question of cultural genocide
Before Adrian Zenz decided to directly plead demographic genocide in 2020, he was a proponent of cultural genocide. In an interview with Tagesschau in 2019, he said that China was destroying the Uyghurs “culturally, religiously, linguistically, in every respect”. Theo Sommer speaks of demolished mosques, deposed imams and the compulsion to have to learn Chinese in re-education camps. So is the Chinese government really targeting Muslim minorities and especially the destruction of Uyghur culture?
The Uyghurs are one of the 55 recognized minorities in China and as such enjoy special rights in terms of language, writing and cultural customs. The full name of Xinjiang is “Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region” – this autonomy makes it possible to enact their own laws, there is leeway in the interpretation of the laws of the central government and also the right to use one’s own language and script. In addition to Mandarin, Uyghur is the region’s official language. All street signs and official documents are bilingual, which means that Uyghur script is ubiquitous in Xinjiang in direct contrast to the indictment.
School lessons are also bilingual. Newspapers and books including translations of foreign works are published in Uyghur. There are special radio and television programs also in Uyghur. In addition to Mongolian, Tibetan, Zhuang and Mandarin, Uyghur is one of the five languages on the national currency, the Chinese yuan. Language and writing are key elements of any culture. To argue that a country that not only allows but actively supports the publication of audiovisual media in a particular language, that actively teaches that language and script in school, and that spreads the script nationwide on the national currency, is trying to destroy a culture lacks any logic.
But what about religion? Don’t the Uyghurs face reprisals for their beliefs? The Chinese government has cited religious extremism as one of the reasons for its action in Xinjiang. That China’s measures are not directed against Islam can be seen from the fact that not all of the country’s ten Muslim minorities are equally affected. There is no other location outside of Xinjiang where comparable de-radicalization measures are being carried out. The largest Muslim ethnic group in China, the Hui, are therefore not subject to the same restrictions as the Uyghurs.
The fact that in Xinjiang itself it is not about forbidding the Uyghurs to believe can be seen, among other things, from the fact that the charter flights organized by the Chinese government for the annual pilgrimages to Mecca for thousands of Chinese Muslims are only subject to strict conditions, but continued to take place in spite of everything until the beginning of the pandemic. Another clue is that, unlike the rest of the country, Eid al-Fitr (the festival of the breaking of the fast) and Eid al-Adha (the festival of sacrifice) are still official holidays in Xinjiang.
According to the China Islamic Association, there are over 39,000 mosques in China; the majority of them, over 24,000 mosques, are in Xinjiang alone. Mosques and Islamic architecture shape the cityscape of cities like Urumqi, Kashgar and Hotan and daily prayers continue to take place. It is possible that there are also mosques that are partially or completely demolished. However, cultural genocide is not the only conceivable motive here, but can also happen due to dilapidation or restoration work, and would certainly have to take place on a more ambitious scale if the goal is to de-Islamicize Xinjiang.
The fact that there should be fundamental doubts about the allegations of the targeted destruction of Muslim cultural sites by the Chinese government can be seen from the fact that said allegations have already turned out to be false several times and the prosecutors e.g. Google Earth misinterpreted or portrayed shopping malls as religious sites. The most comprehensive and frequently cited charge comes from the ASPI (Australian Security Policy Institute) and accuses China of demolishing over 16,000 mosques in Xinjiang. However, the ASPI has already built a reputation for marginal, anti-Chinese studies through similar sensational publications and questionable interpretations of satellite images. Various of the “camps” previously identified by ASPI also via Google Earth turned out to be schools or office buildings. Another ASPI study of alleged systematic forced labor in Xinjiang was based on speculation about a report on working conditions in a single factory. Unannounced visits by Skechers to its supplier in Xinjiang following the study could not confirm any of the points cited by the ASPI. In Australia itself, ASPI is considered by Australian politicians to be the architect of anti-China hysteria, and an examination of ASPI’s questionable study on forced labor in Xinjiang has led to allegations of hypocrisy and academic fraud.
What is really happening in Xinjiang?
There is no question that the Uyghurs’ freedoms are subject to comparatively severe restrictions. Nowhere in China is the state security apparatus as visible as in Xinjiang. Police stations, security guards and patrols are omnipresent in cities and are more heavily armed than usual in China. Security checks in airports, hotels, tourist attractions are more frequent and are dealt with more seriously than in any other province.
In addition to the restrictions imposed by the intensive public security measures, which affect all residents and visitors to Xinjiang alike, the Uyghurs who have gone through programs in the re-education camps have also had real encroachments on their personal liberties. It can be assumed that personal freedom rights were curtailed by the camps, since it must be considered unlikely that the vast majority have voluntarily visited institutions for their own deradicalization.
Without a historical context, the structure of such comprehensive security measures and compulsory deradicalization programs is difficult to understand. But they are neither a sign of arbitrariness nor of ethnic hatred towards a minority or Islam. China’s approach in Xinjiang was in response to decades of religious extremism and terrorism that in the 10 years leading up to 2015 alone killed hundreds of the region’s residents, both Uyghurs and Han alike. A fact that, despite repeated reports on terrorist attacks since the 1990s, has also been questioned in the western media and two Chinese documentaries on the subject (1/2).
Due to the sheer scope of the deradicalization program with hundreds of thousands of participants (the World Bank named 180,000 participants on its project page before deleting the data) there are legitimate doubts about the authorities’ selection criteria for participation and whether people with no tendency towards extremism were compulsorily obliged. At the same time, the participation and the deradicalization program itself – contrary to what the term “concentration camp” suggests – was limited in time and included an exit on the weekends. According to the Chinese government and as confirmed by Western media, the re-education camps have been closed since the end of 2019, but this has not prevented the German media from continuing to speak of one million interned people.
Other Chinese counter-terrorism measures in Xinjiang received far less media attention than the re-education camps. The camps were only part of the multi-billion dollar investment in the region that the Chinese government tried to use to remove the social basis of religious extremism. From the perspective of the Chinese political leadership, the violence in Xinjiang was fueled by various factors – above all poverty, a lack of education, unemployment and social backwardness – and it was primarily these factors that China invested in improving. That the government’s conclusion was not entirely out of thin air can be seen from the data of the 2010 census, and many political decisions made in Xinjiang over the past 10 years only become comprehensible through understanding them.
The historical situation in Xinjiang
In 2010, Xinjiang was the second poorest province in China based on disposable income. The level of education, especially of the Uyghur minority, was extremely low. At a time when over 82.5% of students in China were in high school, 87% of the Uyghur population had at best finished middle school, and 45% might not have even finished elementary school. The educational opportunities of the female population were particularly precarious. Only 8% managed to graduate from high school, in the poorest, Uyghur-dominated regions it was in some cases just 1%.
Xinjiang researchers such as the Chinese Li Jianxin described a lifestyle in cross-generational poverty, which has remained practically unchanged for decades, often arranged marriages of underage women who eke out a existence as housewives after their marriage and whose primary duty was to bear children. Li’s studies showed an average marriage age in the Uyghur-dominated South Xinjiang of 18 years. Research by the Xinjiang village chief Hou Hanmin in Kashgar in 2015 also revealed that 50% of all women were married before the age of 18. One of the participants in the study was already a grandmother at the age of 34.
Under these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that the birth rate in the southern city of Hotan was 3.3 children per woman even in 2017. A value that has not been achieved in Germany for over 100 years and which explains the strong population growth of the Uyghurs in the last 10 years. Taken as a whole, it is the data of a developing country with a lack of perspective and without self-determination for a large part of the female population in particular.
The measures taken by the Chinese government
China’s actions in Xinjiang initially focused on education. Between 2010 and 2017, compulsory schooling was increased to 12 years, school fees were cut and bilingual teaching was promoted. The proportion of students attending high school in the Uyghur-dominated parts of Xinjiang grew from 38% to 84% in five years. In 2019 it was already 98.82% for the province as a whole. More than 46% of 18-22 year olds were studying, a number that has doubled since 2010.
In 2016, the Chinese government began to organize cross-provincial labor transfers to combat mainly rural unemployment. In the following years, tens of thousands of mainly Uyghur workers were given higher-paid jobs outside the province. In 2017, Beijing invested $ 5.2 billion in expanding the health system in Xinjiang as part of a nationwide campaign to reduce poverty. Millions of people were given free access to contraceptives for the first time. At the same time – as already mentioned – the nationwide birth rates were also made mandatory for minorities in Xinjiang for the first time. Violations were punished with fines, compliance with the birth quotas and the renouncement of further offspring were financially supported.
Billions more went into infrastructure projects and other aspects of poverty reduction every year. In 2019 alone, the government invested five billion euros in the province, enabling 600,000 people to rise out of absolute poverty in this one year alone. The region’s disposable income increased 75% in the 10 years from 2010 to 2020. In addition, the government initiated programs designed to strengthen relationships between the individual ethnic groups. The Fanghuiju program, established in 2014, required over 1 million residents of Xinjiang to visit a partner from a different ethnic group several times a year, and individual laws were passed to create financial incentives for marriage between Han Chinese and members of a minority group.
The processing of these complex processes by Zenz and various questionable think tanks and the reporting in the German media then turned marriage subsidies into forced marriages, worker transfers into forced labor, the offer of free contraceptives into forced sterilization and re-education camps into concentration camps. The measures taken by the Chinese government in Xinjiang raise legitimate questions about proportionality, even without propagandistic exaggeration. It can hardly be doubted that coercion played a role in both the re-education camps and the Fanghuiju program. Very few will voluntarily consent to their own deradicalization or practically grant strangers access to their own home.
The reports on labor transfer produced by the Chinese TV broadcaster CGTN also clearly show how party cadres exert personal pressure to convince Uyghurs to participate. The government’s fight against fundamentalism has pushed back some religious practices and cost leading imams their office. The question of whether the interference with the Uyghurs’ personal rights and freedom of religion was not disproportionate is justified. But despite everything, the measures were not directed against Islam or arbitrarily against a minority. Criticism purely of its magnitude suggests that there are more elegant solutions to counter serious terrorism without presenting a real alternative. What was mentioned far less often is that the measures were crowned with success. There have been no further terrorist attacks in the region since 2017.
Xinjiang in 2021 is still Xinjiang, even after a decade of change. The region is still home to a large number of minorities, dominated by Uyghurs. The culture is still unmistakably Islamic and Xinjiang is still very different from other parts of China. It is indisputable that the Uyghurs’ freedom rights were restricted in the context of the fight against terrorism. At the same time, they are now wealthier, safer, and better educated than ever before. Critics who speak of the eradication of a culture must be suspected of reducing the Uyghur culture to poverty and religious extremism alone. Due to the actions of the Chinese government, the social reality of Xinjiang is no longer that of a developing country. This development may have been coercive and in parts disproportionate, but it is not a genocide.
The sources of the genocide
If there is no genocide in Xinjiang, the question naturally arises as to what sources Mike Pompeo, US research institutes and German politicians refer to and what is the driving force behind resolutions in national parliaments when they publicly claim the opposite. A closer look at the most influential sources reveals that the most prominent creators of the Xinjiang indictments have two main connections in common: US funding and a lack of credibility. The most obvious example of this is the most cited expert on Xinjiang, Adrian Zenz.
Adrian Zenz is not so much an expert on China as an evangelical fundamentalist who is currently working for the anti-communist Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington D.C. founded by the US government. He used to work at an evangelical educational institution near Stuttgart and published faith studies that describe the equality of men and women, homosexuality and the non-violent raising of children as religiously problematic and theorize about the “ennobling” of the Jews in purgatory during the Last Judgment. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal in 2019, Zenz stated that he “felt called by God” to do his research on Xinjiang. Zenz ’re-education camp study, which popularized the number of 1 million internees, was published – as well as other studies – at the CIA-affiliated Jamestown Foundation, which is also based in Washington DC. His professional network, the manipulative use of data, the inadequate scientific integrity of his work and the one-sidedness of his conclusions allow clear conclusions to be drawn about Zenz’ credibility.
The most popular source next to Mr Zenz is the previously mentioned ASPI, which attracted attention mainly with the attempt to prove a genocide via Google Earth images and with various studies that were often thematically identical to Mr Zenz and were comparably unscientific. Zenz and ASPIs James Leibold have also written over half a dozen articles together since 2017. The ASPI is financed by the Australian Ministry of Defense, the US State Department, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the US military complex and NATO, among others. The portrayal of China as a malicious antagonist is advantageous for the US, UK and NATO for geopolitical reasons and for the US military complex for financial reasons, as it suggests that Australia should continue to arm itself. Similarly to Zenz, this is a conflict of interest. It should also be mentioned that apart from research on Google Earth, all studies on Xinjiang by Mr Zenz and ASPI are based on publicly available Chinese sources. It seems highly unlikely that the Chinese government will publish information about a genocide that it has committed itself.
But what was the driving force behind the genocide resolutions in Canada, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Lithuania? On closer inspection, it becomes clear that they were all put to a vote by members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC). The IPAC, founded in 2020, is an association of politicians from 19 national parliaments (mainly the NATO countries) and the European Parliament, whose advisory team, including Mr Zenz, has diverse connections to the CIA-related Jamestown Foundation and the CIA sister organization NED or itself – like Robert Suettinger – long-time CIA employees. The organization was founded on the dubious assumption that Chinese violations of international and human rights deserve more attention than those of its own member states and NATO. As a result, the IPAC is less a neutral observer of international events than NATO PR and its members stand out above all for their anti-Chinese polemics. Although the genocide resolutions were all non-binding and therefore purely symbolic in nature, they enjoyed extensive reporting and show how a sufficiently motivated political fringe group can exert an inappropriate influence on public perception, even if the content has no factual basis.
And what about the scientific studies on the subject? The study published by the Newlines Institute in March of this year, unequivocally titled “The Uyghur Genocide,” is in some ways a culmination of Xinjiang propaganda. Newlines is a subsidiary of Fairfax University of America, a questionable eight-faculty institution that nearly closed in 2019 for its lack of academic standards. The institute is run by a mix of former State Department employees, military advisors, and intelligence officials. Experts interviewed for the study include IPAC members Cotler and Kennedy, US diplomats, and Adrian Zenz.
The study does not present its own findings. It is based on the work of Mr Zenz, the ASPI and often quotes articles from the CIA broadcaster Radio Free Asia. Zenz alone is cited over 50 times. Another often-cited source is the Xinjiang Victims Database, a database that appears to be the one-man project by the American Gene Bunin. According to Bunins, the database with over 24,000 entries does not claim to be 100% credible, wrongly declared people to be deceased and contains personal entries that, despite being marked as particularly trustworthy, raise doubts about their authenticity. For example, the Kazakh woman Sayragul Sauytbay repeatedly gave contradicting interviews about her experience in Xinjiang and then published a book, the contents of which, such as the statement that she had seen plans by China to occupy Europe in 2035 in the camp, forced even supporters to distance themself from her. The generous use of these questionable sources shows that the Newlines study does not meet scientific standards. And there is a suspicion that it primarily serves to give discredited anti-Chinese propaganda new seriousness through a new edition by a trustworthy-sounding educational institution.
The Bundestag and the hearing on the Uyghurs
On 17 May the Bundestag’s Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid met for a hearing on the assessment of human rights violations against Uyghurs under international law. Just as before in Canada, the UK and the Netherlands, the framework of the hearing and the hearing itself was dominated by members of the IPAC. Three participants, including the chairwoman of the committee, Gyde Jensen (FDP), spokeswoman for the committee, Margarete Bause (the Greens), and also spokesperson Michael Brand (CDU), are all members of the IPAC. As a precaution, Bause anticipated the desired conclusion of the hearing with the publication a week earlier of an opinion by the scientific service of the Bundestag, which found proof of genocide in Xinjiang. The report is a remarkable work, and much of its conclusions on genocide are derived from the Newlines study. Of the seven invited experts, two are also IPAC members, one of whom is Adrian Zenz.
During the hearing, Jensen mistakenly introduced Zenz as a “Professor at the European School of Culture and Theology” and not as a Senior Fellow of the “Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation”, as this would probably have raised questions about his objectivity on the subject of China. The expert Safferling brings up the concept of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), which legitimizes interventions in other countries and its application by NATO in Libya led to the destruction of the country. The MP Braun (AfD) speaks of the persecution and forced organ removal of the “very peaceful movement” Falun Gong in China. A rumor that the anti-scientific, far right cult of Falun Gong spread itself and which was invalidated by the Washington Post in 2017 at the latest. When a consensus finally emerged during the hearing that there was insufficient evidence of genocide, Margarete Bause presented the China Cables and the Karakax list as counter-arguments. The Chinese refer to these documents as fakes. According to the Sueddeutsche Zeituing, they can be trusted because “a Western secret service” and Adrian Zenz consider them to be authentic. That is not convincing. In the end, it is primarily due to the integrity of the legal experts invited that the hearing ends without falsely identifying a genocide.
This inglorious episode in the Bundestag may seem insignificant, but it carries serious symbolism. Because the hearing on the genocide in Xinjiang may have been held in Germany, but the global genocide campaign against China is primarily an American initiative. That this is the case is shown not only by the US financial flows to the most prominent representatives of the genocide thesis such as Zenz and the ASPI, but also by the annual funding of a number of Uyghur separatist organizations, such as the World Uyghur Congress or the Uyghur Human Rights Project.
The support of this American initiative was worth it to German politicians to hold this hearing. A hearing on a subject – genocide in Xinjiang – could have been cleared up with a brief interview with a serious sinologist. If the Human Rights Committee had found genocide, this would have been used as a means of political pressure. As Bause’s report suggests, primarily to reduce the activities of German companies in Xinjiang. A step that, ironically, would not only have a negative impact on German companies operating in Xinjiang, but would also have a direct negative impact on the Uyghurs by eliminating job opportunities, and thus essentially subordinate German interests to US interests.
The fact that the behavior of the media and politicians to sell a lie to the German population with appeals to our historical sense of guilt is not unprecedented should also leave a bitter aftertaste. After all, it was not least Rudolf Scharping’s assertions that massacres and ethnic cleansing were being carried out in Kosovo and that concentration camps were being operated in Pristina that created the necessary prerequisites for participation in the illegal war of NATO and the first German combat mission after the Second World War in 1999. All accusations subsequently turned out to be baseless. The foreign minister at the time, Joschka Fischer, for his part, defended the Greens’ decision to go to war and against the fundamental values of his own party with the words “Never again Auschwitz!”. The Kosovo war was also a NATO initiative without any relation to the interests of the German population.
The hearing on the genocide in Xinjiang shows that it is possible in the German Bundestag to play political theater with the involvement of questionable experts and manipulative reports in order to sell a falsehood. Adrian Zenz has been criticized for years for his academically questionable and manipulative work and, due to his one-sided conclusions, has also been suspected of being a paid propagandist. Nevertheless, he was repeatedly invited to hearings as an expert on China. The report commissioned by Margarete Bause shows that the scientific service of the Bundestag may also fall back on dubious sources and thus, in case of doubt, come to wrong conclusions.
The preparatory work for the political farce of the Human Rights Committee was done by the reporting of the German media, which, years after Zenz’ credibility was in question, continues to present him as an expert and which takes up every new publication of the ASPI as if it were the work of a trustworthy, neutral source. It can only be explained with a telling disinterest in facts that the German media continue to quote discredited sources, and that until today – three years later – they still report a million prisoners in Xinjiang. Or that nobody in the media notices that accusations of forced labor in the cotton fields or the genocide of a religious minority are narratives specially tailored to US and German target groups.
It has real consequences for the credibility of the Bundestag when propagandists are sold as experts and academically inadequate reports are used as the basis for political decisions. It has real consequences for the credibility of the German media if for years discredited stories are presented to the public without criticism or correction and the same tendentious sources are used.
The alleged genocide in Xinjiang will not be the last anti-Chinese campaign. The US State Department alone has an annual propaganda budget of US $300 million to counter China’s influence. And based on experience on the subject of Xinjiang, it can be assumed that German politicians and German media will serve the next anti-Chinese campaign rather than simply provide information, and that the Germans’ historical sense of guilt is once again driven by the press as soon as this is helpful for a US geostrategic goal. It is difficult to argue that this is in the interests of the German population that these democratic institutions are intended to serve.