Pomegranate propaganda: speech at UN by Chinese government official

The vice-governor of Xinjiang, a region in northwest China, today managed the first sentence of a 10-minute speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council without distorting the facts. He was right on a few other points as well – including that 2019 marks the 70e anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

But the rest of Aierken Tuniyazi’s speech was just another shameless rant of misleading propaganda, as Beijing tries to cover up its blatant violations of the human rights of Uyghurs and other Turkish Muslims. At no time has the vice-governor responded to the many facts and concerns about these abuses documented by academics, diplomats, journalists, UN experts, and organizations, including Human Rights Watch.

Vice Governor Tuniyazi asked his audience to “allow [him] repeat the above introduction in Uyghur language ”- ironic, given that his colleagues in the Xinjiang government deny arbitrarily detained Uyghurs the right to speak in their mother tongue. His insistence that the religion and culture of ethnic minorities are “protected by law” is impossible to reconcile with the now widely documented situation. destruction of mosques and other cultural goods. He referred to the cases of four people – who may not be guilty of any crime – to implicitly justify the arbitrary detention of approximately a million. And, yes: he insisted that all the people of Xinjiang “are united as closely as the seeds of a pomegranate” – but did not explain why the Chinese authorities still feel the need to subject those relatives to a pervasive state surveillance.

That a Chinese government official offered a distorted version of reality to an international human rights body hardly hits the headlines. And perhaps he had the floor to help generate more momentum within the United Nations system and among the member states of the Human Rights Council to continue their quest for genuine accountability for human rights violations which are shocking in scale and scale.

But if Tuniyazi’s remarks – and the broader crisis in Xinjiang – are not challenged by the council, it will represent another step in China’s long march to bend that institution to its politicized, anti-rights agenda. Now is the time for UN member states to make China indebted at the UN – before China reduced them to “pomegranate seeds”.

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