Photo: Liu Xin/GT
Chinese scholars shared their views on China's progress in human rights and developments in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on the sidelines of the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday. Meanwhile, some countries at the international event continue to slander China's Xinjiang policies.
Five academics, including three from Xinjiang, were on hand to share their personal stories and research on China's progress in human rights protection from their perspectives on anti-terrorism, protecting ethnic culture, and novel coronavirus prevention efforts.
The China Society for Human Rights Society Studies, a non-governmental organization based in Beijing, sponsored Thursday's sideline event.
Despite China's repeated urges on anti-terrorism work in Xinjiang, some countries, including the UK, criticized China for "detaining" Uygurs and suppressing culture during a High Level Segment meeting at the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council.
Chinese representatives at the session, including Ambassador Chen Xu, China's permanent representative to the UN's Geneva office and Liu Hua, the special representative for Human Rights of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, said China firmly opposes the groundless accusations.
Voice from Xinjiang
Zheng Liang, a professor with the School of Journalism and Communication at Jinan University, was born in Xinjiang and shared his analysis on the transformation of the "East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM)" - an organization dedicated to separating Xinjiang from China and then embrace a "Salafi-jihadist" ideology to create a "caliphate."
"ETIM works closed with Al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups in the world. It is a threat not only to China but also to global security and human rights. Deliberately ignoring or downplaying the problem is detrimental," Zheng said.
"Out of geopolitical concerns or political reasons, some countries take double standards or totally ignore the harm brought by terrorism and organizations, including ETIM. This does no good to the global anti-terrorism cooperation and will harm the international community," Zheng told the Global Times.
Mahemuti Abuduwaili, a history expert from Xinjiang, delivered a speech on Xinjiang's history and shared personal stories.
"I was born in a very small county at the foot of the Kunlun mountain in Xinjiang. Thanks to the country's policies on cultivating scholars of ethnic groups, I got the opportunity to receive higher education and become a Uygur scholar," Mahemuti said, noting there are many who share same opportunities and have also witnessed firsthand the country's historical development.
Mahemuti noted that Xinjiang is an inseparable part of Chinese territory, and many religions co-exist in the region. "Xinjiang was formally included in Chinese territory in the Han Dynasty and later dynasties in the Central Plains, some strong, some weak, kept closer or looser contact with the regions."
Xinjiang is home to religions that include Islam, Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity, and Catholicism, Mahemuti said.
In response to Western media accusations that Xinjiang has restricted religious practices, Mahemuti said they are not true.
"Religious people can go to the mosque for religious practices as they want. Some places in Xinjiang have rebuilt some mosques for the convenience of local religious groups since the old mosques may have potential safety hazards," Mahemuti explained.
Mahemuti said he was "angry" and "disappointed" that Western media had not conducted surveys in Xinjiang, and have only used Xinjiang separatists as their primary sources to create biased stories "full of lies and mistakes about the region."
Liu Zhengjiang, a Uygur language professor at Xinjiang University, delivered a speech titled, "The development of Uygur language education in China," in Uygur and Putonghua.
"I was born and grew up in Xinjiang. I chose to study the Uygur language at Xinjiang University in 1994 as many of my neighbors, friends, and classmates from high school were Uygur people, and I wanted to learn more about their language and culture," Liu said.
Liu noted his college classmates are of Uygur, Hui, and Han ethnicity. The teachers received multi-language education beginning in primary school.
According to Liu, Xinjiang University has 80 post-graduates who study the Uygur language annually. The university also offers annual bilingual training to 200 grassroots public civil servants.
"China's education programs on the Uygur language have cultivated many multilingual talents for the country, which are helpful to improve harmony among different ethnic groups as well as secure social stability and development," said Liu.
Outside the UN office in Geneva, some "East Turkistan" forces held an exhibition at the Broken Chair Square, calling for the Chinese government to "close the camp" and "release" Uygurs. Very few people attended the exhibition.
"East Turkistan" separatist forces have tried to deceive people by "selling" their fabricated stories. They will never succeed with their lies. All trainees from training centers in Xinjiang had graduated and they have found stable employment, the Chinese scholars said.
The other side of the story
Outside of discussions on Xinjiang, scholars also talked about other China issues during Thursday's sideline event.
Regarding the novel coronavirus worldwide outbreak, Xu Yao, a research fellow with the human rights research center at Nankai University, said, "The Chinese government has protected citizen rights, including providing medical treatment, privacy, and acquiring information.
"It is not an easy task for any country to deal with a new virus that has a 2- week latency period and hit a city with over 10 million people during the largest human migration over the Spring Festival holidays," Xu said.
Lu Zhian, a Fudan University professor, said China's human rights protection system is advancing, and citizen rights have received greater protection.
A foreign scholar speaking on the condition of anonymity told the Global Times the sideline event was very "informative," and offered him a chance to hear "the other side of the story" on Xinjiang and other issues.