Xinjiang: the UN report that wasn’t

Submitted by AWL on 20 April, 2021 - 5:46 Author: Jim Denham
Uyghur solidarity protest

Even by the standards of the Morning Star — a publication whose coverage of anything to do with China is now little more than Beijing propaganda — Kate Woolford’s article on 13 April was an extraordinary exercise in dissembling whataboutery.

Woolford is, apparently, a member of the Southampton Young Communist League and social media editor of Challenge, the Young Communist League magazine. Her article is entitled “Xinjiang: staying afloat in a wave of disinformation” and claims to be an examination of “what is really going on in north-east China.”

In fact, the article contains no new information beyond the standardMorning Star/CPB denunciation of the anti-communist Christian researcher Adrian Zenz (ignoring the masses of evidence from leaked official documents, eyewitnesses and satellite imagery uncovered by investigators unconnected to Zenz) followed by the regime’s standard claims that the Xinjiang camps were built as part of a campaign to “crack down on terrorism with a focus on re-education.” They can’t be concentration camps, we’re told, because the State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China says that: “In accordance with the law, [Xinjiang] has established a group of vocational centres to offer systemic education and training ... to curb frequent terrorist incidents, to eradicate the breeding ground for religious extremism, to help trainees acquire a better education and vocational skills, find employment and increase their incomes and most of all, to safeguard social stability and long-term peace in Xinjiang.”

The one new piece of information Woolford comes up with to support this picture of a benign combination of a Jobcentre retraining scheme, an Adult Education course and the Prevent programme, is the claim that: “Ignored by the majority of the Western media outlets is the fact that China invited the UN [United Nations] to investigate the camps. Despite US attempts to prevent the UN from going, they decided to go anyway and found no evidence of mass human rights abuses or genocide.”

This is, indeed, a little-known revelation and caused one Morning Star reader (Brendan O’Brien of London N21) to write a letter stating that he could “find no reference to this visit anywhere online” and asking: “Can Kate Woolford or anyone else provide some references for this claim?”

I think I can help Mr O’Brien. According to Reuters, in June (13-15) 2019 Vladimir Voronkov, a veteran Russian diplomat who heads the UN Counterterrorism Office, visited Beijing and Xinjiang. Voronkov’s visit was arranged with the Chinese authorities despite the fact that the UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, who has repeatedly pushed China to grant access to investigate the treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang, had been ignored and effectively barred.

An email from Voronkov’s office, seen by Reuters, said the Chinese authorities “planned the itinerary for Voronkov, whose office helps states implement a global counterterrorism strategy adopted by the UN general assembly. The email said his office does ‘not expect any public statements’ on his visit to Xinjiang.”

Searching online for reports from the UN Counterterrorism Office (UNCCT) for the relevant period in 2019, I find none. Despite the fact that Voronkov’s visit was planned and supervised by the Chinese state, lasted all of two days (including Beijing as well as Xinjiang, plus meetings with “senior diplomats including Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng”) and appears to have resulted in no report, Woolford feels able to claim that “the UN” (i.e. Voronkov) “found no evidence of mass human rights abuses or genocide”.

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