Many Tanzanian friends asked me the following questions: Where is Xinjiang located? What happened there? Is Xinjiang really like what some Western countries have described? As China’s Ambassador to Tanzania, I would like to take this opportunity to brief readers on the real situation in Xinjiang.
Xinjiang is located in the northwestern part of China and at the center of the Eurasian landmass. It is the largest provincial-level administrative region in China, with an area of 1,665,000 square kilometers. Xinjiang is a beautiful land with rich natural resources, including glaciers, rivers, lakes, forests, grassland, and numerous animals and plants.
Chinese people often say, “You don’t know how big and beautiful China is until you visit Xinjiang.” The beauty of Xinjiang is also embodied in its vigorous economy, harmonious society, solidarity among different ethnic groups, and people’s happy life.
Since the establishment of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in 1955, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and with the hard work of several generations of all ethnic groups in the region, Xinjiang has entered the best era in its history in terms of development and prosperity.
1. Xinjiang has made unprecedented achievements in economic development. From 2014 to 2019, XUAR’s GDP had increased from RMB 919.59 billion to RMB 1,359.71 billion, with an annual average growth rate of 7.2%, and the per-capita disposable income of Xinjiang residents had grown at an annual rate of 9.1%. In 2020, Xinjiang’s GDP increased by 3.4% year on year, which is 1.1 percent higher than the national average. At present, the 3,089,000 Xinjiang residents who previously lived below the current poverty line have all been lifted out of poverty, which marks the historical elimination of absolute poverty in the region.
All the prefectures in Xinjiang are connected by expressway, and paved road leads to every village, to which bus service, electric power, and fiber optic broadband have been made accessible.
The basic medical insurance has covered 99.7% of Xinjiang residents, and free health check-up has been offered to all the people in Xinjiang. Moreover, nine-year compulsory education is available region-wide while children in southern part of Xinjiang further enjoy three-year preschool education and 12-year basic education.
2. The population of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang has increased rapidly. From 1978 to 2018, the population of Uygurs in XUAR grew from 5.55 million to 11.68 million, registering a 2.1 times increase. From 2010 to 2018, the Uygur population in Xinjiang increased by 2.55 million or 25%.
The growth rate of the Uygur population is not only higher than that of Xinjiang’s total population, which is 14%, but also higher than that of all ethnic minority groups, which is 22%, let alone the Han population’s 2%.
3. People’s right to work is well protected in Xinjiang. The XUAR government has taken firm action to prevent and punish any incidents of forced labor, and protect workers’ basic rights in accordance with the law, including the equal right to employment, the right to remuneration, the right to rest and leisure and to vocational safety, and the right to participate in social insurance.
Discrimination against workers on the basis of ethnicity, origin, gender, language and religious belief is prohibited in Xinjiang. From 2013 to 2018, the minimum salary in the region had been raised by 19.7% from RMB 1,520 per month to RMB 1,820 per month. The accusation that “Uygurs are forced to pick cotton” is groundless.
A few years ago, when the cotton in Xinjiang was ready for harvest, the demand for cotton pickers attracted migrant workers from other regions to Xinjiang. Migrant workers of various ethnic groups in the region also joined the “cotton-picking forces”. These workers were all voluntary.
They picked cotton to make a living and nobody was forced to work. With the development of science and technology, cotton picking and production in Xinjiang has been highly mechanized. In 2020, 70% of the cotton in Xinjiang was harvested by machines. The so-called “forced labor” is totally unfounded.
4. The XUAR government has achieved notable success in fighting terrorism and maintaining stability in accordance with the law.
From 1990 to 2016, ethnic separatists, religious extremists, and violent terrorists plotted and conducted several thousand violent terrorist acts, inflicting untold suffering on the people of various ethnic groups in Xinjiang.
Several years ago, to prevent and curb violent terrorist activities, the Xinjiang government set up vocational education and training centers in accordance with the law. These centers are not different in essence from the “community corrections” enforced in the US, and the deradicalization centers in France, all complying with the principals and spirits of UN Global Counter-terrorism Strategy and UN’s resolutions on anti-terrorism. They are definitely not “concentration camps”.
The vocational education and training centers provided courses mainly on Chinese national language, legal knowledge, vocational skills and deradicalization contents. Trainees graduate from the centers after they complete the courses and pass exams.
The centers are run as boarding facilities and trainees can go home and ask for leave to attend to personal businesses. The trainees can decide on their own whether to take part in legitimate religious activities when they got home, and their dignity, personal freedom and religious customs are well protected in accordance with the law.
By October 2019, all trainees completed their studies and graduated, and most of them have found stable jobs and lived a better life. At present, there is no such centers in operation in Xinjiang. During the past 4 years and more, no terrorist attack has occurred, which shows that the preventive measures have yielded good results.
Nevertheless, a few countries, ignoring the fact that Xinjiang is stable and prosperous, fabricated and spread such monstrous lies as the existence of “genocide”, “forced sterilization”, “forced labor” and “re-education camps” in Xinjiang. They imposed sanctions on some Chinese institutions and personnel using these lies as excuses.
Their real intention is neither caring about Xinjiang’s development, nor protecting Uygurs’ human rights, but to manipulate the Xinjiang-related issues to alienate different ethnic groups in China and undermine Xinjiang’s stability and unity so as to achieve the vicious goal of containing, splitting and destabilizing China.
In 2018, a high-ranking official of a certain country admitted in a public speech that the so-called Uyghur issue in Xinjiang is just a strategic conspiracy with an attempt to disrupt China from within and contain China. The video of that speech can still be found on YouTube. Tanzanian friends who are interested can find it to watch.
Facts speak louder than words, and justice naturally dwells in a man’s heart. Since the end of 2018, more than 1,200 people from over 100 countries and regions, including officials from international organizations, diplomatic envoys in China, journalists and religious leaders, have visited Xinjiang in 80 batches. They all spoke highly of the achievements China has made in fighting terrorism, promoting deradicalization and protecting human rights in Xinjiang.
For a long time, a majority of friendly and developing countries, upholding an objective and unbiased attitude, have spoken out collectively on several multilateral occasions to support China’s position and measures on Xinjiang-related matters. At the 46th session of the UN Human Right Council held this March, Cuba, on behalf of 64 countries including Tanzania, made a joint statement on Xinjiang, urging relevant countries to stop using Xinjiang-related matters to interfere in China’s internal affairs, stop making unjustified and politically-motivated accusations against China, and stop seeking to contain developing countries under the pretext of human rights issues.
The Xinjiang-related issues are not about ethnicity, religion or human rights, but about countering separatism, violent terrorism and foreign interference. China’s determination to protect its sovereignty, security and development interests are rock-solid. We will never allow anyone to make malicious judgments and wantonly interfere in our internal affairs.