"Countless lies are being spread by people who have never been to Xinjiang," said French journalist Maxime Vivas, who recently published a book about his two trips to the autonomous region in northwest China.
Having visited Xinjiang "from one end to the other" in 2016 with 40 journalists from 20 countries, and "seen a lot of things" during a second visit in 2018, Vivas recounted what he saw in a book titled "Uygurs, to put an end to fake news."
"In two years between my two trips, I noticed the extraordinary dynamism of the region, where roads had been built and a lot of things had improved," he told Xinhua. "It is a region that is progressing very quickly" to catch up with other regions of China, he said.
"In Xinjiang, I saw a large Muslim Uygur population. You can see it because there are a lot of mosques and we don't feel like they are oppressed," he said.
"What is true is that China made a special effort to train them, teach them the language and a trade," he said. "I saw a lot of dances, folklore. In a school there was a teacher who was learning Chinese and Uyghur. I saw a cook who used to make hallal food."
In his book, Vivas mentioned an encounter with a 41-year-old peasant woman, who, with the help of the local government, had set up a small tracksuit manufacturing business and became head of the enterprise with 80 employees. With her own income and government scholarships, she sent her son to study abroad.
"Never in her life had she expected this could happen. Her life has been transformed by the Chinese government," said Vivas.
He said he saw the Chinese government is investing a lot to help the Uygurs by training engineers and teachers so that they can develop their region on their own.
Yet there are always big differences between Europeans' perception of China and the country's reality, the writer said.
"Countless numbers of lies are being spread by people who have never been to Xinjiang," he said. "Between 2016 and 2020, for four years I was interested in Xinjiang and I noticed that everything that was being told was not true."
"So many Western media outlets tell fake news that they will not want to admit that they lied," Vivas said.