How China’s orchestrated tours of Xinjiang echo the ‘Potemkin villages’ of authoritarian regimes

ABC News
Date: August 3, 2019
By: Erin Handley

PHOTO: China’s tours for diplomats and journalists paint a sanitised picture of Xinjiang, critics say.(ABC News: Graphic by Jarrod Fankhauser)
PHOTO: China's tours for diplomats and journalists paint a sanitised picture of Xinjiang, critics say.(ABC News: Graphic by Jarrod Fankhauser)[/caption]
A young Uyghur woman smiles as she threads a needle to the backdrop of tinkling piano music.

"I have rid myself of extremist thought," another says, playing ping-pong.

Slick Chinese videos seek to counter the United Nations' finding that at least 1 million Uyghurs — a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority — are detained in internment camps in China's western region of Xinjiang.

But the centrepiece in China's propaganda apparatus is the orchestrated tour of Xinjiang — bringing journalists and diplomats inside their "vocational centres" to showcase young Uyghur men and women dressed in bright clothing as they sing and dance for the cameras.

YOUTUBE: The BBC's tour of China's 'thought transformation' camps

Last month, two dozen countries — including Australia — called on China to halt the "arbitrary detention" and "widespread surveillance and restriction" of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.

But last week China hit back, saying ambassadors from 50 countries backed their stance on Xinjiang after taking state-sanctioned tours of what it calls "boarding schools".

Xinjiang families torn apart

It appears to be the largest imprisonment of people on the basis of religion since the Holocaust.

"They saw a real Xinjiang with their own eyes," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters

In rhetoric echoing science-fiction notions of "pre-crime", China says the facilities are necessary to prevent terrorist acts before extremist thoughts can take root.    [FULL  STORY]

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