Uyghurs and the Bachelet report

Sep 7, 2022
Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Image: Flickr / UN Geneva

As UN high commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet has released the report of her office into human rights concerns in China’s Xinjiang province. Amongst other things it accuses officials in the province of torturing Uyghurs detained for suspected dissident crimes.

Torture is a topic familiar to Ms Bachelet. Her father was tortured to death by the rightwing Pinochet regime in Chile which gained power by a US-supported 1973 coup against the elected government. She and her mother were also tortured.

Some 3,000 of 40,000 detained by the regime were killed or disappeared. She has every reason to be sensitive to torture accusations.

China at its worst has not had much to compare with the pure sadism and brutality of some rightwing anti-communist regimes the West has supported. Rape was a favoured weapon of the Pinochet regime.That regime was created and supported by the US.

Canberra still reuses to declassify material showing Australia’s spy agency involvement with the establishment of the Pinochet regime. Is that something we can be proud of?

Over Xinjiang it is undeniable that the authorities there may have gone to extremes in its crackdown on suspected Uyghur dissidents. To ignore them is lose a valuable opportunity to encourage voices of moderation that exist as much in China as elsewhere in the world.

But Beijing has had its reasons for its crackdowns, in particular the killings of Han Chinese by Uyghur extremists of the East Turkestan Independence movement which even the US used to accuse of terrorism (until it began convenient to lift the accusation).

At the very least people need to show some knowledge of those reasons when they make the criticisms.

Many in the West, particularly in our spy-infiltrated media, are much more interested in exaggerating the extremes rather than finding reasons.

There is also the problem of getting facts right; Western governments have a particularly bad record where China is concerned.

There was once supposed to be a massacre in Tiananmen Square which for some reason no one in the Square at the time managed to witness.

It was inevitable that Beijing in assuming control of people so culturally different as the Islamic, Turkic language speaking peoples of Central Asia would have problems.

(I suspect that is one reason why Beijing ignored the demands by former Nationalist governments in Taiwan that China should take control of Mongolia and some other territories in Central Asia.)

But in the case of Xinjiang there was no way Beijing could have failed to get involved after taking power in 1949. Previous Chinese governments had actively sought control. It could not leave a vacuum for the East Turkestan Independence people and other extremists to fill.

And having asserted control it was inevitable there would be cultural conflicts.

Beijing has done quite well in promoting economic development in Xinjiang. Maybe it went too far in encouraging Chinese firms to establish themselves there so quickly, and in such numbers.

But too much was probably better than not enough.

Where it fell short was in failing to realise the determination with which its mistakes would be used against it.

Accusing Beijing of genocide in Xinjiang is just stupid.

In its efforts to enforce a one child policy Beijing from the beginning had made exemptions for minority peoples. But if it said Uyghur families could have only have two children (when Han Chinese could only have one) it was supposed to be using genocide against Uyghurs.

If the rate of growth of the Uyghur population was only 16 percent in the ten years to 2020 that too was genocide. And if China’s population growth in the same period was only 0.5 percent yearly in the same period?

Do the critics even realise the meaning of the word genocide? It is supposed to mean the population has declined, not rising. But when it comes to criticising China you can say whatever you like, provided is derogatory.

If China builds the world’s biggest dam on the Yangtze River to prevent floods and produce needed electricity without polluting the skies it is guilty of distorting nature by building a big dam.

It is fine if criticisms push China to needed reforms. But go too far and the results can easily be counter-productive.

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