We, Westerners, impose our sense of individualism onto a society that has a sense of communalism. We are bothered by it. But this is not something the Chinese people need “rescuing from”. China is not your enemy, the people telling you China is your enemy, are you enemy.
An open letter from Jerry Grey to UK government MP James Cleverly, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs.
Dear Mr. Cleverly,
Whilst I was very pleased to see your visit to China went well, I am disappointed with your parting gesture. The last thing I wish to see is the UK doing badly, I have many friends and family still living there, some of whom even voted for you.
You mentioned the challenges of doing business with China and I am going to enter this dialogue with some information you may find disturbing because it completely contradicts your information.
It is telling that not one person from the British Embassy in China, or any of its Consulates have ever been to Xinjiang or provided you with a report from the ground – this indicates one of two things, I believe: your office either believes there is a genocide going on there and doesn’t care enough to do anything about it, which is hard to believe; or your office knows there is no genocide there and does not want to face the inconvenient truth. I sincerely hope that you, personally have been misled and are not wilfully taken part in this deceit.
I am not under any illusions that you would know who I am so I will provide a brief introduction here. My name is Jerry Grey, I am a British born Australian citizen who, for the last two decades, has been a resident of Zhongshan City in Guangdong Province, China.
From 1977 to 1987, I was a twice commended Member of the British Police, first of all, in the Met. 884A Division and, if you wish I will, privately, provide my warrant number so that this may be verified, then moved to Essex. During my time in the British police, I was fortunate enough to have been selected to work inside Buckingham Palace, I have personally met our late Queen several times, King Charles many times and was, I think, a friend to Lady Diana Spencer before she became the Princess of Wales.
Given this background, it’s highly unlikely that as a young man between the ages of 18 and 28, I was anything other than reliable. I moved to Australia, shortly after serving many weeks on the Miners Strike in a role that made me feel decidedly uncomfortable as my late grandfather was a South Shields coal Miner for his entire working life. The role of a police officer on a picket line can indeed instill some difficult thoughts which caused me to reassess my own life choices.
I paid scant attention to anything political for most of my life but in 2020, recently retired and locked down due to Covid-19 I started, out of boredom, posting photographs and stories of my travels in China on Twitter, now X. That decision turned my life around so much because I have found that, almost everything I say online which is based on my personal observations and experiences attracts the kind of criticism you have yourself have made of China.
Since defending my personal observations became a necessary habit, I continued to become a published writer and have written several articles internationally, mostly for John Menadue’s Australian Public Policy Journal Pearls and Irritations and am sure he would endorse my words as being reliable. John is a former diplomat and advisor to several Prime Ministers. I am sure you know John Menadue’s work, if you do not, then your advisors are indeed keeping you in the dark.
I think I am unique in the foreign community in China as I have travelled to almost every province and region but that’s not what makes me unique. What makes me unique is that I have travelled by bicycle doing the hard yards, climbing hills, mountains and crossing deserts. I have ridden in excess of 30,000 kilometres by road in China and none of it on highways, all through small regional roads.
In doing so, my wife and I have raised significant sums of money for disabled people in our community and have become quite well-known inside of China. So much so that several TV documentaries have been made about us, most recently by CGTN Europe, from the UK linked here. But more importantly, we have seen progress at village, county and rural town levels that make what China has achieved in the last 20 years almost incomprehensible to anyone who has not witnessed the significant and hugely beneficial changes to rural China.
It is this experience that makes me both unique in the foreign community and an avid supporter of China, as well as the governing Communist Party.
While I would not for one second consider myself a communist or even a socialist, I have to concede, I have never seen a more collaborative and consultative method of governance, one that engages and benefits its constituents in ways that western democracy proponents would find unimaginable. When people ask: do I support the CPC? My answer is yes, at this period in history, I support everything I have seen them doing. I cannot speak for the past, I will not speculate on the future but I will say, and stand by this fact, that China under Xi Jinping is a MUCH better place for 1.4 billion people than any other place I have lived, or travelled to and is, in fact, it is a far better place than it was when I arrived here in 2004.
I have been disparagingly described in Western media as a retired security guard, a cyclist in China, a Beijing apologist and many other names but I speak only from experience and support that with my research. My one main regret is that, the two times I travelled across Xinjiang by bike, I was not interested in the politics and didn’t make the kind of videos or take the types of pictures I should have taken in order to refute the narrative that you believe to be true; it is not true, I assure you.
2014 was not my first trip to the region but it was the first time I travelled in Xinjiang by bike, cycling across the regional border from Gansu through a place called Xin Xin Xia (Starry Gorge) and travelled approximately 1500 kilometres to the border with Kazakhstan at Khorgas. Once we’d arrived at Urumqi, we dismantled the bikes, hired drivers and cars and visited several different areas inside Xinjiang including grasslands and snowy mountain (Tian Shan) regions. During that trip, we saw no evidence of oppression, we met, mingled with and interacted daily with Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Mongols, Tajiks and Kyrgyz who were living normal lives.
In 2019, my wife and I flew to Urumqi and had our bikes shipped there, we assembled the bikes and started to ride out of the Region through a different route crossing the Taklamakan desert, through the Tarim Basin. This is not meant to be a geography lesson, this is only to demonstrate that in almost 5000 kilometres of travel inside Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, I’ve seen no evidence of oppression, persecution and absolutely nothing like a genocide going on. In fact, quite the opposite.
I’m not so naïve to suggest there haven’t been some problems, clearly there have, there is an enhanced security in the region, checkpoints are regular but the police are polite and, in most cases kind and helpful. They provide clean water, gave us fruit and were curious as to the nature of our journey — I should add that my wife is Han Chinese and got no special attention. I, as a foreigner, may have; but the main point is that, at these checkpoints, we witnessed hundreds of people passing through automatically by scanning their cards and being recognised in the system. The police were obliged to manually input my data as their automated systems of card and facial recognition do not have foreign passports registered. Once again, it’s an observation I can make because I’ve seen many thousands of Xinjiang residents, including Uyghurs using this system and seen no evidence of abuse, no oppression and, when asked about these measures, every person replies with the same answer: it’s safer than it used to be, so it’s ok.
Personally, I don’t like it, I am a westerner and find this kind of imposition to be intrusive but, to the local Chinese, it’s a daily part of their lives and they see no issue with it at all. Here is where things break down in misunderstandings.
We, Westerners, impose our sense of individualism onto a society that has a sense of communalism and we see things differently to them. We are bothered by it, they are not, but organisations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and of course, the US State Department and many others feel it is ok to impose our western values and ideals on a society with differing expectations. Always without having any feedback from the local community. Not one of the above-mentioned organisations has ever visited Xinjiang and asked the people there what they feel about the security measures; I have.
There hasn’t been a terrorist incident in the region, or in China at all for that matter, since these checks were imposed and this is a matter of great pride, not just for the Chinese government, but for the people who communally work together to make this happen. This is not something the Chinese people need “rescuing from”.
Some people call me naïve, I’ve been accused in mainstream media of looking at China through rose tinted glasses and, to some extent that’s true. However, I am not, as I’ve been described, a “retired security guard who rides a bike”. I was a General Manager in Australia for British company, Chubb Security and, during my career, have taken security systems, access control, CCTV and perimeter protections to many government buildings. At some stages of my career, I have entered almost every prison in the UK and Queensland, Australia, so I know what a prison looks like and I certainly know what oppression looks like.
During my time as a police officer. I was on the front lines of the Brixton Riots. I was at Lewisham during the National Front Campaigns and one of the first officers in Mainland Britain ever to be deployed with a riot shield. I was front and centre when the Miner’s Strike hit the UK, spending many weeks in the coal fields of Northern and Northwest England. During that time, I discovered very much what police brutality and oppression look like and was in fact, a part of it.
I have also attended the scenes of IRA bombs, one of which killed Airey Neave in our own Palace of Westminster; your Braintree connection to Mr. Neave should be a stark reminder of how Terrorism affects us all at home. I am VERY aware of the consequences of terrorism.
Clearly, this background gives me an insight that is more observational than that of a normal tourist in any region.
I do notice things, it’s a part of my DNA and, if I didn’t notice oppression and persecution in Xinjiang, it’s because there isn’t any. Almost everything negative that I have read about Xinjiang can be reasonably explained. For example; the satellite imagery identified by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), so defined by a 20-something-year-old undergraduate with absolutely no experience in this field to identify buildings as prisons. They are simply what China says they are — schools and factories. The reason he misidentifies them is because he’s never set foot in China nor seen the way a school or factory is constructed — because of huge distances involved and the migratory nature of China’s workforces, there are worker’s dormitories, these are identified by ASPI as cells. Because of the issues of security in a country which, until recently was wracked with poverty and terrorism, there are security walls, fences, manned gates and barbed wire, there are also, on almost every building in China, grills or bars on the windows, my own apartment has these, installed, before I bought it.
Chinese school students wear uniforms, Chinese factory employees too, ASPI not only misinterprets but then confirms these misinterpretations as prisons because of bias, staff are seen moving from one place to another wearing uniforms therefore a biased mind interprets a prison, a knowledgeable, informed or experienced mind know it’s not a prison.
Every school, even kindergarten, in China has two uniformed police officers outside the gate as kids go in and when they come out, this is because a few years ago, you might recall, there were incidents of a knife wielding madman entering a school and killing several kids as well as teachers. This will probably never happen again in China due to these measures. Seeing the police officers at the gate is not considered authoritarian by the kids, they love to salute and shake hands with, or at least say hi to the officers. One of the other sources of information is a man called Adrian Zenz who is a religious zealot. Not my opinion, he is the author of books and has openly stated his god has sent him on a mission to destroy the communist Party of China.
The final source of stories for the narrative is that of the Xinjiang diaspora in various countries who seem to have limitless funds and offices in dubious locations connected to the US intelligence organisations and who are regularly paraded in front of us at various different tribunals with stories, many of which differ from the story they previously told. None of them have ever been tested under oath or cross examination. One thing that has never been explained to me or anyone else with an interest is how those people left China with a passport and visa because there are no refugee camps on any of the Xinjiang borders.
As I reach the end of this letter, I can assure you there is a lot more information on China which is far more on the positive balance than the negative. To paraphrase Samuel Clemens: Claims of China’s demise are greatly exaggerated.
China has built all kinds of infrastructure, hospitals, schools universities and vocational colleges. It has more bridges, roads and ports than any other country, it has more high-speed rail and more frequent slow speed trains than any other country.
I can vouch for the fact that 5G is available in every part of China, something no other country can boast. I recently travelled through poverty alleviations programs in Yunnan, Hunan, Sichuan and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region without having a single issue on connectivity. Or having my safety or security endangered in any way. Huawei is just about to release a 5.5G and already working on a viable 6G. China has 1.4 billion people, which includes 56 ethnicities and has lifted half of them out of abject poverty in the last 40 years.
China has over 200 languages still alive and active inside the country and, while there is one language for the nation, each of these ethnicities and many regional communities, use their own language in their day to day lives. Announcements in public places, road signs and many other indicators, including China’s own currency display clear evidence of this.
China has gone from being one of the poorest countries in the world during our lifetimes and now has a 60% attendance in tertiary education, a 99+% literacy rate. Imagine, just a generation into the future, China will have produced over half a billion tertiary educated graduates.
China has a life expectancy on a par with the developed world and now, far in excess of the United States.
China has written off many debts to third world countries, provided millions more vaccines, PPE’s and sent medical teams to more countries than any other to help overcome the recent pandemic.
China is not only virtually crime free, but is one of the safest places in the world to live, bring up kids and enjoy a lifestyle that is second to none. It’s hardly surprising that a recent poll of 32 countries found China at the top of the world in ranking global happiness.
In short, everything you know about China being a threat is untrue and every fact stated here is verifiable. Your advisors may very well disagree with me but not one person can prove any of this is wrong, they can only offer opinions that my knowledge or my experience might be different, they can tell you I am naïve and not fully informed. They can state that I could have been misled or, as is most common, that I am paid for my opinions and therefore they are not worth considering.
Little realising that those very people advising you ARE paid for their opinions, while I am not. Also, ironically unaware that their information is from reading, analysing and not from visiting and experiencing.
It matters not who is paid for what story, what matters is, does the person telling it have the experience, the knowledge and the supporting information to prove that it’s true? If not, they may be selling propaganda, if they do, then, whether or not we like the message, the message is true and acceptance is inevitable unless we are either too ill-informed to realise it, or too biased to accept it.
This is where we stand on China now: “experts” do not have the experience or knowledge of modern China to speak with authority, most journalists have never been to China, or in the case of some have but lived their entire career inside and “ex-pat bubble” and have not experienced the kind of China that I have, the kind they need to experience to form legitimate opinions.
Some, including academics who do speak out, are pilloried in the media and even in Parliament under parliamentary privilege by people you know well but who have less knowledge, less experience and are less ethical than those people who stand up.
And I’ll leave you with this one thought, if the four aspects – a possible Taiwan invasion, the restrictions of freedom in HK, the human rights issues in Tibet and the Xinjiang Narrative – are all proven to be false; which they are, where is the threat from China?
China is not your enemy, the people telling you China is your enemy, are you enemy.
Best Wishes from Zhongshan in China and I look forward to hearing back from you or your office.