On Nov. 16, the New York Times published a report on 403 pages of leaked internal documents from the Chinese Communist Party that detailed the ongoing crackdown against Muslim minority ethnic groups in Xinjiang, China.
According to NYT, the documents were revealed by an anonymous member of the Chinese political establishment and included:
- A directive for Chinese authorities to tell elite students from these groups that they should be grateful the authorities had taken their relatives away,
- A speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping to be as harsh as the Uyghur militants, "and show absolutely no mercy", and
- The downfall of a Chinese official named Wang Yongzhi who "refused to round up everyone who should be rounded up."
Mainstream media carries NYT report, netizens triggered
It was also reported by CNA, which carried a Reuters report on the NYT story.
In response, many online commenters on the Facebook pages of all three outlets reacted to the news with scepticism, on the grounds that NYT is an American media with an axe to grind with China.
This is despite the fact that NYT is known to be antagonistic towards the current Trump presidency, making it difficult to explain how can it possibly end up serving the current administration's interests against China.
The reaction was not lost on one commenter who called it "amazing".
Meanwhile, another commenter described the reaction as such:
Xinjiang crackdown has been reported by multiple media outlets
Suffice to say, the NYT report adds a new level of details and sophistication regarding the instructions issued to Chinese authorities -- details which were previously not revealed in the multiple accounts of the crackdown on Xinjiang's Muslims that were separately reported by multiple media outlets from different countries before.
On Oct. 17, Israeli media Haaretz published an interview with several former Uyghur camp detainees who revealed the presence of torture, rape and forced abortions in the detention camps.
Before that, on Sep. 7, Qatari media Aljazeera put up a video which highlighted the Chinese government's referral to the camps as "centres for re-education" and "thought transformation" camps.
Separately, on June 29, Vice News published a video of the camp, which captured footage of how heavy the area seemed to be scrutinised, both by armed security personnel regularly patrolling the area, and by surveillance cameras.
And on June 21, the BBC used satellite imagery to show the extent of the camps, noting that they were surrounded by “high walls, barbed wire and watchtowers”.
China slams NYT report
Associated Press reported that the Chinese foreign ministry has since slammed the report.
On Nov. 17, a spokesman for the ministry, Geng Shuang, criticised NYT for ignoring the true reasons behind what China calls a campaign to end poverty, separatism and religious extremism.
He added the fact that Xinjiang had not suffered a terrorist attack for three years was proof of the policy's success.
In attacking the NYT article as a "clumsy patchwork" based on "selected interpretation" of the documents, Geng further stated that the report was an attempt to smear China's efforts.
He said: "Xinjiang’s continuing prosperity, stability, ethnic unity and social harmony are the strongest refutation to the allegations by certain media and individuals."
However, Geng did not question the validity of the documents.
Top photo by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images, screenshots from CNA, ST and Today Facebook