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Leaked documents and photographs from former East Turkestan (the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) coincide with a UN visit to the region and suggest up to 2 million, perhaps more, were interred.
Photos: Xinjiang Police Files
The images speak for themselves – a proud Silk Road people reduced to detainees, cotton-picking trainees for the manufacture of garments for mall grazers – while the explosive leak suggests the much-debated extent of the suppression is worse than previously thought.
An internal Chinese government document provides new support for the extraordinary scale of internment during what was likely its peak in 2018 and 2019. The document, a transcript of an internal June 15, 2018 speech by Minister of Public Security Zhao Kezhi, reinforces the plausibility of previous detention estimates, adding to the evidence that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) had interned between one and two million Uyghurs and other ethnic minority individuals by the late 2010s. The speech also points to Xi Jinping’s informed and active support for Xinjiang’s “re-education,” “strike hard,” and “de-extremification” campaigns, as well as for continued spending on additional detention facilities and staff to manage the influx of detainees.
Researcher Adrian Zenz, of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, has also published his findings in the Journal of European Association for Chinese Studies and the photographs of detainees are available in the Xinjiang Police Files.
Photos: Xinjiang Police Files
In the absence of independent data—or any reliable official information from the Chinese government itself—observers have been left to estimate how many people the state has incarcerated. These estimates rely on a range of different methodologies, from phoning local police officers, to extrapolating from leaked government spreadsheets, to analyzing food subsidy payments for “re-education” facilities. The estimates themselves also have varied widely. My own projection from 2018 posited between several hundred thousand and one million interned; in 2019, based in part on leaked government spreadsheets listing detention figures for several Uyghur townships, I increased this estimate to between 900,000 and 1.8 million. Many scholars of the region have accepted these estimates and have cited varying numbers in their own publications, ranging from “up to one million” at the low end to “between one million and three million” at the high end.
Photos: Xinjiang Police Files
The ChinaFile report states:
The first “two million,” those “influenced by pro-Xinjiang independence, pan-Islamist, and pan-Turkist thinking,” alludes to people who identify with a broader Turkic religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage—that is, Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and people of other ethnically Turkic groups. Beijing links this sense of non-Han Chinese identity, or pan-Turkic identity, with separatism, frequently describing it as a “poison” of the mind that must be eradicated through “re-education.” Zhao specifies that the second “two million” people reside in southern Xinjiang, where the percentage of Uyghur and other Turkic peoples is much higher than in the north. Zhao’s reference to “extremist religious thought” could describe almost anyone who engages in religious behavior, given Beijing’s exceedingly broad definition of what constitutes “extremism.”
Photos: Xinjiang Police Files
The leak coincides with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s presence in Beijing – she will be visiting Xinjiang – where Foreign Minister Wang Yi presented her with an English-language copy of Party General Secretary Xi Jinping’s book, Respecting and Protecting Human Rights.
Bachelet has no doubt been scouring the tome for hope on China’s internal policies.
Photos: Xinjiang Police Files
Yes, the haunting images speak for themselves … And at the same time, as the BBC writes:
The documents provide some of the strongest evidence to date for a policy targeting almost any expression of Uyghur identity, culture or Islamic faith – and of a chain of command running all the way up to the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping.
Photos: Xinjiang Police Files
It’s horrifying, of course, and far more insidious than Xi’s pat-on-the-back-Putin invasion of Ukraine. There’s no excuse for either action.
Image: Mark Corry
Is the China-Russia cozy messaging awful? Yes, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) – and obviously terribly timed, given everything else that’s going on.
In the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, social media posts by Chinese diplomats on US platforms almost exclusively blamed the US, NATO and the West for the conflict. Chinese diplomats amplified Russian disinformation about US biological weapon labs in Ukraine, linking this narrative with conspiracy theories about the origins of COVID-19. Chinese state media mirrored these narratives, as well as replicating the Kremlin’s language describing the invasion as a ‘special military operation’.
ASPI found that China’s diplomatic messaging was distributed in multiple languages, with its framing tailored to different regions. In the early stage of the conflict, tweets about Ukraine by Chinese diplomats performed better than unrelated content, particularly when the content attacked or blamed the West. ASPI’s research suggests that, in terms of its international facing propaganda, the Russia-Ukraine conflict initially offered the party-state’s international-facing propaganda system an opportunity to reassert enduring preoccupations that the Chinese Communist Party perceives as fundamental to its political security.
The full 26-page report is available here as a PDF.
Ambiguity, Confusion or ‘Gaffes’?
Taiwan Department of Defense: Is the US with us or is the answer blowing in the wind? Photo: WikiCommons
Was it a gaffe or just piling on the ambiguity? Does it matter?
The New York Times headline:
Reports Al Jazeera, it’s …
… both a useful ‘slip of tongue’ and a revealing reflection of a widely shared assumption within the US government. Biden has done this multiple times before, be it at the CNN Townhall in early 2021, or his statement about the non-existent ‘Taiwan agreement,’” Wen-ti Sung, a political scientist who teaches at Australian National University’s Taiwan Studies Program, told Al Jazeera.
Biden is not alone in ambiguous “slips of the tongue.” As a Tweeter notes, George W. Bush did the same thing in 2001, promising to defend Taiwan in the event of an attack.
Do we have to go war? … We once did, a long time ago, between 1954 and 1979, but then came a major shift. The U.S., like most of the rest of the world, transferred formal diplomatic relations from Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, to Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China, recognizing the PRC as the sole Chinese government (what the PRC called the “One China” principle). However, also in 1979, and in just as important a measure, Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, declaring that the U.S. “shall provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character” and “maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or social or economic system, of the people of Taiwan.”
Taiwan observer Michael Turton notes in a tweet, “The one China policy of the US is that the status of Taiwan remains undecided and that the island is not part of China.”
“One China” politics are complicated – or are ludicrously anachronistic given that the civil war between the KMT and the CCP was over by 1949, and the KMT no longer rules Taiwan. But they’re still a fact of life and ambiguity as to whether the US would respond in kind to an invasion of Taiwan – along with sales of defensive weaponry to the island nation – is all part and parcel of the deterrence umbrella.
Taiwan and China have their own definitions of “one China,” as does the US and other nations. The real question is whether, if China makes a move, will it result in a major regional bust-up, possibly leading to WWIII, assuming the latter is not already underway?
Yes, is probably the answer – with Japan joining the fray. In this sense, strategic ambiguity is akin to, Don’t push this button because nobody knows what it does, which is probably the primary reason – rational or otherwise – the US is banking that China will not do it and will continue to ratchet up the ambiguity, just as China continues to ratchet up its “saber rattling.”
It’s a fault-line that will probably slip one day, but hopefully not tomorrow or next week or next year.
Game on in the Pacific
US President Joe Biden is swanning around northeast Asia; China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi is doing a Pacific tour that extends far beyond the Solomon Islands.
In fact, breaking at the time of press, according to Reuters, China’s foreign minister is seeking a region-wide deal with nearly a dozen Pacific countries at a meeting in Fiji next week.
Reports the Financial Times (paywall):
China is intensifying its drive for influence in the Pacific by negotiating security deals with two additional island nations following a pact with the Solomon Islands, according to officials in the US and allied countries. Beijing’s talks with Kiribati, a Pacific island nation 3,000km from Hawaii where US Indo-Pacific Command is based, are the most advanced, the officials said.
The trip will include Timor Leste, according to Reuters, which allegedly seeks closer relations with China.
Lithium Mine in Sichuan Attracts 3,448 Bids
The shift to electric vehicles has spurred a global rush for lithium, which is used in virtually all EV batteries, and seen Chinese prices of lithium carbonate surge more than 400% over the past year. The highest bid in a tender in April by Australia’s Pilbara Minerals Ltd. for spodumene concentrate, a partly-processed form of lithium, more than doubled in just six months.
[Meanwhile] an auction for a controlling stake in a Chinese lithium mine has garnered 3,448 bids, underscoring the scramble to secure the battery metal that’s key to the clean-energy transition.
The 54.3% stake in Yajiang Snowway Mining Development, which owns the mine in Sichuan, a southwestern province in China, was sold for about 2 billion yuan ($299 million), according to the JD.com’s judicial auction platform. That’s nearly 600 times higher than the starting price of about 3.35 million yuan.
In Kathmandu, Dharamsala and Tibet …
Image via Uzra Zeya/Twitter
US Under-Secretary Uzra Zeya met with Tibetan refugee leaders in Kathmandu, according to the Nepal press, before traveling to Dharamsala in India May 18-19 to meet the Dalai Lama, the exiled religious leader of occupied Tibet.
She allegedly professed US support for Tibet during her trip.
Meanwhile in Tibet itself, the Chinese government is implementing mandatory pre-schooling as part of its efforts to diminish use of the Tibetan language and marginalize Tibetan culture according to Tibet Action, an activist website.
Meanwhile, according to other sources, Tibetan monks are destroying Buddhist statues.
China Discovers Pristine Other World in Sinkhole
Photo: Song Wen/Xinhua/Alamy Live News
Chinese scientists have discovered a massive sinkhole – 1,004 feet (306 m) long and 492 feet (150 m) wide – complete with a forest, according to reports.
The hole was found in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, near Ping'e village in the county of Leye, an area famed for its karst scenery, which has turned the formerly sleepy village of Yangshuo into a tourist trap. All the same, the karst formations of rock pillars have earned the region a UNESCO world heritage site designation.
Chen Lixin, who led the cave expedition team, told Xinhua news agency that the sinkhole floor was full of dense undergrowth.
“I wouldn't be surprised to know that there are species found in these caves that have never been reported or described by science until now,” Chen said.
Taiwan Excluded from Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (But so is China)
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Photo: WikiCommons
Taiwan was excluded from the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) when the US administration of President Joe Biden launched it Monday, the Japan Times reports.
“We are looking to deepen our economic partnership with Taiwan including on high technology issues, including on semiconductors and supply chains,” said National Security Advisor to Joe Biden Jake Sullivan in a press briefing.
China was also not among the 13 nations that were invited and have all signed up for Biden’s IPEF, described as an attempt to rebuild an economic pillar in its engagement within the region after former president Donald Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in 2017, reports SupChina.
More Cash for Restaurant Sector
Shanghai may still be suffering – see this remarkable video from Shine on the hardships facing those who want to escape or have to escape – but the Taiwan government is at least trying to keep the restaurant scene afloat, as the country learns to “live with Covid.”
The Independence-leaning Liberty Times reports (Chinese language) that the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ subsidy of NT$600 million – with a maximum of NT$100,000 per case – is nearly exhausted and the Executive Yuan has agreed to increase the availability of subsidies to about NT$3 billion. Funds will be available for around 6,000 restaurants.
Off with the Birds
The Taipei Times has boldly spoken out on the need for Taiwan’s international inclusion, and not just the World Health Organization:
Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation owes itself not just to the absurd degree China will go to suppress the image of Taiwan as a country — just ask Birdlife International — but how a rigid, self-imposed adherence to a position of “strategic ambiguity,” maintaining the “status quo” and respecting the “one China” policy has effectively turned Taiwan into Schrodinger’s country territory.
What’s with Birdlife International got to do with it, you ask? Well, as the Australian Broadcasting Commission reports:
BirdLife International expelled the Taiwan Wild Bird Federation (TWBF) after the local group refused to sign a document it described as ‘political.’
At the start of the year, Birdlife asked the TWBF (who were at that stage called the Chinese Wild Bird Federation) to change their Chinese-language name, saying it posed an “organizational risk” to the umbrella group.
BirdLife also demanded the group sign a document declaring it would not advocate for Taiwanese independence.
Actually, TWBF agreed to the latter – they’re too busy watching birds to be organizing anti-China protests. As for Schrödinger’s country, we have to assume that’s the Taipei Times playing at strategic ambiguity.
‘I’m not a murderer … ‘
Quanhua Temple in Miaoli, where the KMT has politically stumbled. Photo: WikiCommons
The Western media frequently alludes to Taiwan’s “vibrant democracy” but it’s unlikely they really know just how vibrant it can get, especially when you start heading south.
“Taiwan politics: I'm not a rapist or murderer, I'm an adulterer and stabbed a classmate” ran a memorable headline in the Taiwan News this week.
It’s a somewhat complicated story and best left to the Taiwan News to explain:
After Kuomintang (KMT) party chair Eric Chu (朱立倫) visited Miaoli to consult with local leaders, he announced on May 14 that Legislator Hsu Chih-jung (徐志榮) would be their candidate. This caught Miaoli County Council Speaker Chung Tung-chin (鍾東錦), who had wanted to be the nominee, totally off guard. He then said Hsu wasn’t picking up his calls and called the nomination process “shady.”
Chung went on to state he wasn’t ruling out running for county commissioner “to the end” anyway, presumably by leaving the party or joining another one, thereby splitting the pan-blue vote.
Chu and the KMT's top-down nomination, which skipped the more standard polling or negotiations between potential candidates, is the same thing that got them in so much trouble in Taoyuan because it comes across as arbitrary and unfair, though the party does have the right to do it this way. But in this case, it was even worse; apparently, Chu and the KMT election committee hadn’t bothered to consult — or even inform — Hsu about his own nomination.
Theatrical chaos of the worst kind ensues … A common complaint among ordinary Taiwanese is 台灣可能太民主了 – “Maybe Taiwan’s become too democratic.” It’s not a view that ChinaDiction endorses, but the sentiment … yeah, we get how it feels that way sometimes.
The 1895 Republic of Formosa lasted just five months before the Japanese stepped in, but what really do you expect with such a mournful/confused “big cat” flag who looks like he/she’s poised to ask, Sorry to be a bother but where’s the bathroom?
Design has arguably been letting Taiwan down for well over a century.