Photo: Screenshot from CGTN documentary
As a new documentary on the anti-terrorism fight in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which reveals cases of “two-faced persons” and problematic Uygur language textbooks for the first time, has drawn wide attention from audiences at home and abroad, some Western media and anti-China forces sought to gain fame by smearing the documentary as a “propaganda campaign” to justify the Chinese government’s policies in the region.
Chinese experts said Tuesday that they were not surprised by such hype, saying that the move just continued to show some Western media and anti-China forces used the “low playbook and logic” to slander China over Xinjiang, which is a cliché and hilarious.
This is the fourth documentary on the Xinjiang region’s anti-terrorism fight and data showed compared with previous three episodes, the latest one – The War in the Shadows – gained much higher attention.
The previous episodes were Tianshan Still Standing: Memories of Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang in June 2020, The Black Hand — ETIM and Terrorism in Xinjiang and Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang in December 2019.
The new episode for the first time revealed the cases of some local officials, dubbed “two-faced persons,” who had been lurking in government – some even holding key positions – and exploiting their power to secretly back the “three evil forces” (terrorism, extremism and separatism) with financial and intelligence support.
It also disclosed for the first time problematic Uygur language textbooks that had poisoned students for a long time as well as how the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) introduced terrorist audio and videos into China.
“This reflects the complexity and difficulty of the anti-terrorism and de-radicalization fight in the Xinjiang region,” Zhou Weiping, a research fellow of Northeast Asian affairs with Jilin Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
However, some Western media still followed their bias. The New York Times described the documentary about the “blood, violence, terrorism and separatism” in old Uygur language textbooks as part of “Beijing’s wide-ranging new propaganda campaign to push back on sanctions and criticism of its oppression of the Uygurs.”
On Tuesday, Xinjiang regional government officials revealed more details of crimes committed by some senior officials who condemned the “three forces” of terrorism, extremism and separatism in public, but provided financial and intelligence support for terrorist activities in private, as depicted in the documentary. It is believed that this is the first time the regional government has made these details public.
One case is related to Shirzat Bawudun, a former high-ranking official in the region, who was later found to be secretly supporting extremist activities linked to ETIM. He was convicted of 10 crimes and sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve. The crimes include splitting the country, defecting to the enemy, providing intelligence for overseas terrorism, joining a terrorist organization, and aiding terrorist activities.
The other case concerns Sattar Sawut, then head of the regional Education Department, who organized a criminal group to spread extremist ideas and incite ethnic hatred through composing Uygur language textbooks. Sattar was also sentenced to death with two years’ reprieve for committing the crimes of splitting the country and taking bribes.
Shu Hongshui, a professor from Northwest University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the information disclosed at the press conference shows that the trials of these “two-faced persons” fully complied with judicial proceedings.
“It also sent a message: the case is not just striking the ‘two-faced persons.’ There is more complex information that the documentary cannot fully present to the audience. That could prove that the harm that the ‘three forces’ has done to Xinjiang is far more serious than people think,” Shu said.
“Western media’s accusation of China on excessive counter-terrorism is out of ulterior motives. It is always easier said than done,” Shu noted.
‘Absurd’ to find flaws
One segment of the part about problematic textbooks shows a fictional plot from the problematic textbooks. While explaining the part, a female interviewee in the documentary describes that “Han soldiers force heroic Uygur girls to jump off a cliff to their death.” On overseas social media platforms, some people claimed that the Uygur language textbook actually writes it was “Manchu soldiers, not Han soldiers,” implying that the documentary is exaggerating the problem of the textbook.
“It is the narration of the interviewee,” Han Bin, director of the documentary, told the Global Times on Tuesday. “During the shooting, we did not interfere in what the interviewee was saying for reasons of fairness and objectivity.”
“Imagine, if the documentary modified the interviewee’s quotes. What would those anti-China forces say? They would say we were forcing them to talk. It mirrors an old saying: whoever wants to condemn someone can always trump up a charge,” Han said.
Han said that there are many “natural barriers” in the shooting of anti-terrorism documentaries. The documentaries should explain the causes and effects of the incidents and problems deep down, but also should not fully display too many details of terrorists’ acts.
Zheng Liang, a research fellow at the Guangdong-based Jinan University, said it is ironic for some Western media to focus on attacking the part of problematic textbooks in the documentary.
The first part of the documentary demonstrates the pains that Xinjiang residents have suffered and the difficulties in educating criminals involved in terrorism. The second part shows the collusion of the “two-faced persons” and overseas terrorist organizations. The last part portraits the challenges posed by terrorist organizations such as ETIM on cybersecurity.
“Some Western media and anti-China forces chose to turn a blind eye to the three parts, and ignore the safety and interests of the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang,” Zheng said.
As Western media are unable to find any more points to smear in the documentary, they turned their attention to the details in an attempt to find the so-called “flaws,” Zheng noted.
“It is illegal to incite ethnic hatred, whether among Han or Manchu,” Li Hua, an associate professor at the School of Marxism of Yili Normal University in Xinjiang, told the Global Times on Tuesday. “It is so absurd and hilarious for these people to focus on insignificant details to find fault and attempt to use the interviewee’s quote to deny the documentary.”
Shu said it is not surprising to see some Western media use the old tricks to attack China. They did not care about Xinjiang residents nor about the fallen officials.
Although these fallen officials may have the same objective to split Xinjiang but the anti-China forces in the World Uyghur Congress want Xinjiang to split from China following their steps.
“Anti-China forces in the World Uyghur Congress may feel glad when the officials who had connections with the ETIM were busted by regional authorities,” Shu said.
“The complexity of Xinjiang-related affairs and the difficulty of the fight against terrorism cannot be fully illustrated by a few documentaries, but they have shown full sincerity. Unfortunately, the word ‘professional ethics’ never seems to appear in the journalistic ethics code of some Western media,” Zheng said.