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The Xinjiang genocide determination as agenda

Originally published: The Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research, TFF, Lund, Sweden by Gordon Dumoulin, Jan Oberg and Thore Vestby (April 27, 2021 )  | - Posted May 08, 2021

A Critical Analysis Of A Report By The Newlines Institute And The Raoul Wallenberg Center

On March 8, 2021, the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy in Washington published a report, The Uyghur Genocide: An Examination of China’s Breaches of the 1948 Genocide Convention in cooperation with the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights in Montreal.

It states that

This report is the first independent expert application of the 1948 Genocide Convention to the ongoing treatment of the Uyghurs in China. It was undertaken by the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, in cooperation with the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, in response to emerging accounts of serious and systematic atrocities in Xinjiang province, particularly directed against the Uyghurs, an ethnic minority, to ascertain whether the People’s Republic of China is in breach of the Genocide Convention under international law.

The Report–hereafter The Report–has been produced with the contributions of, and upon consultation with, numerous independent experts, including 33 who have agreed to be identified publicly, as it is stated.

The purpose of this TFF analysis is to examine the status of the Newlines Institute and the circle of scholars and others who have produced and contributed to it and their connections. It also takes a closer look at The Report’s methods and content as well as the sources on which The Report bases its extremely serious conclusion, namely that the Chinese state is responsible for committing genocide and violates the central provisions of the said Convention in its policies in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) intentionally.

TFF wants to make it very clear from the outset that we do not take a stand on whether or not what happens in Xinjiang is a genocide. As of principle, we would not state such an opinion unless we had also been on the ground in Xinjiang. The sole purpose is to examine what this first independent scholarly documentation–which was covered immediately by a wide range of Western mainstream media–is based on.

We first present the Executive Summary of our findings and then expand on a series of more specific themes and perspectives.

Executive summary

1. The Report and the two institutes behind it are not ”independent”, and the report does not present new materials. Co-produced with the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, it’s the product of cooperation among individuals from at least six, more or less inter-connected, interest groups, or milieus, which are more Near– than Non-governmental–namely:
Christian fundamentalism + hawkish conservative U.S. foreign policy circles + Muslim Brotherhood circles + extreme anti-Communism + pro-Israel lobby circles + the politicising human rights machinery (in which human rights concerns tend to serve various types of interventions by the United States of America).

For a report published by independent scholars from an independent institute, this is problematic.

2. The somewhat haphazardly edited Report may have been published to back up former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s ”determination” on January 19, 2021, that what goes in Xinjiang is an ongoing genocide. No evidence accompanied it. Pompeo is known, in his capacity of CIA director and in his own words (2019), to be proud that ”we lied, cheated and stole–we had entire training courses–and it reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.” (Watch him say that 29:15 into this conversation). Mike Pompeo is also known as a Conservative Christian who, while at the West Point Military Academy, was ”brought to Jesus Christ”, and he is known to be extremely critical of China.

3. The Report comes through as containing both fake or dubious but also, significantly and systematically, biased choices of sources and as deliberately leaving out fundamentally important perspectives, theories, concepts and facts.
For an institute that professes to be based on solid scholarship and values, this is problematic.

4. The Report appears–whether knowingly or intentionally or not–as supportive of hardline U.S. foreign policy and as exploiting human rights concerns to promote a confrontational policy vis-a-vis China.
It certainly does not conform to the values of mutual understanding and peace that the Newlines Institute states that it is based on.

5. The Report conveys propaganda in the specific sense of treating China as the subject of all evil but omitting that an understanding of China’s policies must also include its relations, including the conflictual relations it has with the U.S. China is seen as an independent variable and, therefore, The Report can not produce any comparative perspective. To put it crudely: If what China does in Xinjiang is a genocide, are there other actors/governments who should also be determined as pursuing genocidal policies? Or, how does the Chinese ”war on terror” inside Xinjiang and its human costs compare with the U.S.-led Global War On Terror, GWOT, and its human costs?

6. Given the problems we point out in this analysis, one must be deeply concerned about the Western mainstream media’s systematically uncritical reception and coverage of the Newlines-Wallenberg Report. They gave it immediate and prominent attention, but we have found none of the media checking the sources of The Report or questioning that it is an ”independent” institute and the ”first ’independent’ expert application of the 1948 Genocide Convention.”

What we have found in The Report makes us believe that if this is the highest-quality documentation of a genocide in Xinjiang available, one may seriously doubt whether what goes on in Xinjiang is a genocide. And, most likely, determining it as such will only have negative consequences for U.S.-China relations and even for the United States itself.

What we have also found is that The Report is a rather illustrative example of the discourse and interest circles that characterise what we call the MIMAC, the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex–building and expanding on the concept used for the first time by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who called it a Military-Industrial Complex, MIC, in his farewell speech in 1961.

The independence of the two organisations, their background and connections

The Newlines Institute

Newlines was founded as late as 2019 by Dr Ahmed Alwani and is an affiliate of FXUA, Fairfax University of America, which is a private, business-oriented higher education institution with personality links to business and various U.S. government institutions. Its founder and president is also Dr Alwani but he is not mentioned on the university’s second homepage above. The university has another homepage, however, where he is presented as its President.

Its corporate advisory council consist of, among others, Ken Logerwell who is also senior vice president of the National Security and Innovative Solutions (NSIS) that ”is an unrivaled problem-solving network that adapts to the emerging needs of those who serve in the defense of our national security. We are dedicated to the work of bringing together defense, academic and entrepreneurial innovators to solve national security problems in new ways.”

It is not clear why the Fairfax University of America has two homepages with different content and why one of the homepages presents a policy-making body, the Board of Trustees, that included Dr Alwani as President, which doesn’t exist on the other. Noteworthy is that three of its six members are also founders or in the leadership of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT)–an organisation affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Newlines Institute set up an Uyghur Scholars Working Group in 2020. It tasked it with ”research and analysis on how best the U.S. government and its allies and partners can deal with Beijing’s efforts to erase Uyghur identity and culture.” So already before the present new report, the Institute had decided that that is what China does. A leading member of this group is Dr Adrian Zenz, whose central role in all this we shall return to.

The FXUA is a small college with about 150 students. According to its Wikipedia page, it has had problems with the quality standards of education; interestingly, the majority of the footnotes there deal with the Newlines/Wallenberg report findings, not the institute as such.

And who is Dr. Alwani who is–or perhaps has been–central in both organisations?

The Newlines Institute presents him this way,

Dr. Ahmed Alwani is the founder and president of Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy and its parent institution, Fairfax University of America (FXUA). He is a businessman based in northern Virginia with investments in the poultry, real estate, and education/training sectors.

So he is the founder of both, although he does not exist on the latest homepage of FXUA. The Newlines presentation of him lacks details. He is said to be driven by ”a desire to help improve the human condition,” and has also been on the advisory board the the U.S. military’s Africa Command and is connected with a series of other education institutes and investment firms.

His father, Taha Jabir al-Alwani, was a founding figure of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and his death was announced by the above-mentioned IIIT–of which Dr Alwani is presently the Vice President.

The funding for the Newlines Institute–which was formerly (and still is) the Center for Global Policy, CGP–is provided by the FXUA but on its ”About” page it is emphasised that it is independent and also accepts research grants and donation but explicitly not ”from any foreign government or entity and is one of the few think tanks in Washington with no foreign or local agendas.” What this mention no foreign funding and of ”agendas” implies remains unexplained.

There is no explanation why Center for Global Policy changed to Newlines Institute; many of its videos and its Facebook page still use the CGP identity and only March 23 this year welcomed its visitors to the Newlines Institute.

The Newlines Institute is not an independent institute. And with the many changes of identity and relations indicated above, one must naturally wonder: What is it really?

Now to the co-publisher of The Report: The Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights

Here its own homepage, and here the Wikipedia entry. The Centre’s mission statement is a 7-page PDF. Still, you quickly gather what kind of human rights the Centre is engaged in: Holocaust remembrance, the struggle against anti-Semitism, human rights issues in Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and no awareness-raising or campaigns concerning the human rights violations committed by Western countries and their allies. In short, the ”right” human rights issues of the U.S.

The Centre was founded in 2015 by an international human rights lawyer and former Canadian Minister of Justice, Irwin CotlerWikipedia and the homepage–who is also its Chair. Among his many connections, he is also a member of the heavily biased ”United Against Nuclear Iran” organisation. He is a defender of everything Israel and had no qualms about attacking distinguished professional colleagues like Richard Goldstone and Richard Falk who have been engaged in the plight of the Palestinian people.

Cotler is a staunch advocate of the Responsibility To Protect, R2P, and argued for it in Libya, criticised Canada for not intervening in Syria and nominated the terrorist-affiliated White Helmets for the Nobel Peace Prize. Already two weeks before The Report was published, he tried to press Canadian PM Trudeau to use the word ”genocide”, arguing that forced sterilizations and abortions and holding more than one million Uyghurs in what he called “concentration camps” violate the Convention.

You may read more about who Mr Cotler is in this well-documented critical analysis by Yves Engler in The Palestine Chronicle which also illustrates his close connections with Israel’s most powerful elites. Furthermore, Cotler’s daughter is a Knesset MP and his wife worked for and was a friend of then PM Menachim Begin. The Jewish Insider carried this interesting interview with Cotler himself on March 15, 2021.

While anyone is entitled to have political views, sym- and antipathies, they should be openly stated and not covered up by words like ”independent scholar.” Dr Cotler is clearly a very political human rights personality.

The sources and worldviews of The Report

The Report is presented in this video as based on consultation with fifty top and highest calibre experts in all relevant fields worldwide plus on ”looking at more than 10 000 testimonials of Uyghur witnesses and accounts from detainees.”

Yonah Diamond is The Report’s principal author. He is a prolific HR writer. On July 15, 2020, he co-authored an article in Foreign Policy and Genocide Watch, which, without indicating sources or evidence, revealed what the Newlines report has now stated 8 months later. Genocide Watch is founded and chaired by Dr Gregory Stanton, a former State Department official. It carries a Xinjiang Genocide Emergency Alert–Level 9: Extermination dated November 2020; this alert implies that the Uyghurs are already being ”exterminated”.

Revealing of Diamond’s political intentions is another article co-authored with Rayhan Asat in Foreign Policy of January 21, 2021, which argues that the U.S. must rethink its failed engagement policy and now ”confront the genocide in Xinjiang first.” (They start out with the story of Ekpar Asat, Rayhan Asat’s brother, who was a media entrepreneur, philanthropist and peacebuilder but is said to have been disappeared upon return from a visit to the U.S. in 2016 and not seen since–”one victim among millions of government atrocities that the United States have just designated a genocide”).

That was only two days after Pompeo’s statement. The political aims of the stated human rights concerns are obvious.

In the Newlines introductory video from March 31, Diamond (and other participants) emphasise how huge the material collected and analysed is. Still, none of the assertions made by the panellists is documented there. The references are just cited as facts. Furthermore, there is no discussion of methods, data sources or how The Report’s fact base was compiled and organised.

A central argument is brought forward by professor John Packer who states that the problem is that China argues that the issue of repression/genocide is an internal matter and that if that is accepted, how many other parts of international law shall we have to say goodbye to?

Another participant in the video discussion about The Report, Bethany Allen-Ebrahim, who worked with the China Cables project and is now a China reporter at Axios which published only negative reports about China to which she makes a substantial contribution. Although she lived four years in China and is fluent in the language, she comes through as a person who believes that China kind of doesn’t understand its own best.

All four participants in the discussion talk about China as if it was not a party to a conflict with the U.S. No one mentions U.S.-China policy and its increasingly confrontational character the last few years. Allen-Ebrahim uses phrases such as ”Chinese authoritarianism versus Western liberal democracies, human rights conventions that try to make the world a better place for everybody.”

The black, guilty China and the white innocent U.S./West seems to be a repeated underlying thought figure–a simplifying dichotomy hardly effective to convince you of independent or solid scholarship.

The choice, according to her, is human rights or money, and she believes that far too few stand up for the former. The CCP, the Chinese Communist Party, doesn’t understand the West, doesn’t understand that internment camps, in the eyes of democracies worldwide, is ”bad, the thing you just don’t do” and that it believes its own propaganda, she also claims. And, further, Xi Jinping has become so powerful that people are afraid, the leadership is in an echo chamber and believes that things have gone so well for so long that nothing can stop it and its ”endless insults” to a series of countries such as India and the United States.

Azeem Ibrahim, Newlines’ director of Special Initiatives and author of The Report’s foreword and also an adjunct professor at the U.S. Army War College, seems to believe that the Chinese believe–as he says–that perhaps if China wants Hong Kong, it will simply take it; if it wants Taiwan, it will simply take it and if it wants to it will also dominate the South China Sea.

In short, The Report omits every conflict analytical approach and treats China as a solitary actor driven by evil motives. While everybody–also scholars–have a right to personal opinions, the systematic value bias and China-negative attitudes held by all contributors makes one wonder how most of the authors and contributors were selected. Such uniform and systematic ”ideological” bias could very likely influence The Report’s choice of data and sources.

Finally, the CVs of the authors and contributors at the end of The Report largely omit mention of these extra-academic affiliations and political connections that are clear when you search a little deeper.

The content of The Report

Now to The Report itself, 55 pages where one notices that the above-mentioned Diamond is the principal author while Cotler, Stanton, Packer and 29 other ”independent experts” have been consulted and/or contributed directly and ”have agreed to be identified publicly.” Logically, that must mean that there have been scholars who did not want to have their names mentioned; that militates against normal, open academic norms (whereas one can understand that, say, Uyghur witnesses or victims, would not like to appear with their names).

All the contributors are Westerners or based in Western institutions, well over 20 from the U.S. and Canada, a couple in the UK and elsewhere. According to The Report, quite a few have government positions and are advocates of the Responsibility to Protect and/or interventionism. And many are related to Holocaust and genocide research and prevention.

The report lacks a systematic method of structuring main chapters and sub-chapters/sections and seems to have been put together hastily (see the strange Table of Content below)–perhaps in the short time between January 19, 2021, when Secretary-of-State, Mike Pompeo, announced that he had ”determined” that China had committed crimes against humanity and genocide and the publishing of The Report on March 8?

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The various chapters back up the conclusions stated in the summary: that the independent scholars conclude that Chinese leadership is responsible for committing genocide; that the intent is to destroy the Uyghur group as such, in whole or in substantial part; that this intent is documented by deeds and words by the high-level leadership including President Xi Jinping himself. Then follows documentation of the methods whereby this intent is said to be realised such as mass internment, mass birth-prevention, killings, forcible transfer of children, etc.

The report carries 317 notes, so the authors have obviously wanted to back up their conclusions with open, available and checkable facts. Naturally, some sources are legal texts on genocide, the Vienna Convention, academic journals, UN documents and analyses of other genocides and, of course, the history of the Uyghurs. And there are references to other human rights reports, Amnesty’s and Human Rights Watch’s in particular.

More interesting is the analysis of: What are the main sources in The Report that are used to prove the genocide?

Interesting too? A glimpse behind the facade of Western China policies.

From page 17 you get the sense: The New York Times, The Guardian, BBC News, The Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the (CIA-initiated) Jamestown Foundation, Financial Times, Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), The China Files, the Hudson Institute, the Bitter Winter magazine (for religious liberty and human rights in China), The New Yorker, Foreign Policy, the Journal of Political Risk, the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) and Radio Free Asia.

A couple of important sources indeed stand out.

The Xinjiang Victims Base that appears on an internet address called ”shahit.biz” is important because many of the victim statements in The Report are taken from it–for instance, Victim # 124 (“So many people died from the beatings and torture”). However, there is no ”About” accessible on “shahit.biz”, no information on the methods, the sources, how it was built or what it means that it contains lots of short videos–as also does the Uyghur Pulse YouTube Channel it links to–in which people present and state ”video testimonies for the victims of the slow but de facto genocide in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region.”

Homepages which are completely anonymous would normally be considered of no credibility or other value as a source of documentation–whether academic or political–and should have been left out.

The Journal of Political Risk, referred to a couple of times, covers political risk and opportunities. ”Local issues and their impact on the world are analyzed and presented from a neutral and unbiased perspective. The journal is published by Corr Analytics, an international political risk analysis and consulting firm.” Its publisher is Dr Anders Corr, who lists that he has worked for e.g. United States Army, United States Pacific Command (USPACOM), United States Special Operations Command Pacific (USSOCPAC), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). And its editor is Neil Siviter, who currently studies for his MA in War Studies at King’s College London and has interned at the NATO Association and the government in Canada.

You get a sense of Dr Corr, in a lecture on YouTube for the Committee On The Present Danger: China, when he advocates 5 strategies to ”defeat the Chinese Communist Party”, one of them being to double the U.S. defence budget and get the allies to do likewise. (The Committee’s vice chairman, Frank Gaffney, argued right before Trump left The White House that Trump ”must declare the Chinese Communist Part a trans-national criminal group” (see The Committee’s members here).

Why these details? Because The Report refers to this Journal which carries an article by Dr Adrian Zenz to whom we shall soon return because of his central position in the entire issue. One must wonder whether Dr Zenz has chosen more or less extreme-political outlets for his research or his manuscripts have not passed peer-reviews of more relevant academic journals.

One more frequently used (22 times) source deserves special mention, namely Radio Free Asia. It presents itself as a ”private, nonprofit, multimedia news corporation” but these are dubious words. It is one of many U.S. government media outlets with an annual budget of U.S.$43 million, with 253 employees, headquartered in Washington D C and comes under the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM).

Like Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, it is engaged in promoting U.S. values and perspectives vis-a-vis adversaries. The USAGM has been haunted by political controversies and its origins harken back to CIA’s secret special operations in 1948.

This is not to imply that these sources all tell lies or exaggerate the brutality of events. Some may, some may not–we as authors have no way of knowing. The main point is that the sources used in The Report–literally without exceptions–tilt in the same politico-ideological, Near-governmental direction and that no sources have been used that could, to put it crudely, give a different perspective, critically examine the selected sources or otherwise look into the validity and reliability of the media stories presented which are standard methods in independent academic scholarship.

To summarize, the majority of sources on which The Report is based are Western, particular U.S.., mainstream media plus materials from organisations which, indisputably and without exception, are on a Sinophobic (”anti-China”) mission, see the world (and the China-U.S. relations) in black-and-white terms plus U.S. State Department/Pentagon-related individuals with attitudes promoting U.S. global dominance and intervention policies.

Whether intended or knowingly, or not–The Report and its attempt at documentation of genocide in Xinjiang are perfectly fit to be used for such U.S. policies rather than for a genuine human rights-only campaign and trustworthy advocacy. The Report contains no calls to action directed at human rights organisations; instead, some of its authors have tried to influence government policies directly.

The report does not attempt to distance itself from the elites behind those global dominance policies. It makes excellent use of them–either directly or indirectly (as the above personality connections have documented).

Now to the mentioned Dr Adrian Zenz (1974- ) who is stated everywhere as the expert on Xinjiang.

Dr Adrian Zenz–the world expert on Xinjiang who is guided by God

Zenz appears no less than 41 times through The Report’s 317 notes, most others once or twice. There can be no doubt that The Report’s documentation is based way more on his studies than on any other experts. So who is he?

Since October 2019, he is a Senior Fellow in China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) in Washington, D.C. and here is a presentation of him in conjunction with a widely circulated article of his published in 2018 by the Jamestown Foundation of which he is stated to be an analyst. It was set up on the initiative of the CIA and remains an arch-conservative foundation with a board composed of corporate, business and investment people, former U.S. government officials, former CIA leaders and militaries and some experts on terrorism.

It does not seem obvious why a human rights report by Dr Zenz would end up being published by such an organisation (and, as mentioned above, Zens has published with other ”hawkish” outfits like the Corr Analytics) rather than in a scholarly journal or a document for a genuine human rights organisation.

The VOC was established by a unanimous act of the U.S. Congress and George. W. Bush was its honorary chairman 2003-2009, i.e. during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. VOC proudly states in its 2019 report that ”Since joining VOC, Dr Zenz has been mentioned over 240 times in over 120 media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the BBC, and has conducted broadcast interviews with NPR, Bloomberg, and CNN, as well as top German newswires Deutsche Welle and Tagesschau”–that is, within just the three months.

It speaks volumes of the type of uniform expertise sought for by these media–something that is confirmed by the above presentation of media sources underlying The Report. One must wonder whether there were no other experts on human rights in Xinjiang than Dr Zenz? Did the media ever look for others? Did he just fit a particular purpose? Or do they simply not know the importance of diversity and objectivity?

The VOC–that has assets of about US$ 16 million–obviously works to outcompete the Nazi Holocaust when, on its front page, it states that ”Communism killed over 100 million. We’re telling their stories” and, according to Wikipedia, ”In April 2020, the organization announced they would be adding the global victims of the COVID-19 pandemic to their death toll of Communism, blaming the Chinese government for the outbreak and every death caused by it.” So much for its attitude to China.

Here’s the Wikipedia entry for Adrian Zenz. He’s a German anthropologist who used to work at the European School of Culture and Theology, which is related to the Columbia International University, a Bible College not to be confused with Columbia University. Dr Zenz is a born-again Christian and has stated that he feels that God has told him to pursue this research–17:00 minutes into this Washington Watch interview–on Chinese Muslims and other minority groups in China.

Zenz co-authored a book about the end times in 2012 with his father-in-law, Marlon L. Sias, titled Worthy to Escape: Why All Believers Will Not Be Raptured Before the Tribulation; on the book link, you will see that they are both learned men and that Adrian ”studies New Testament Greek besides teaching (at the time) and preaching at his local church.”

Here is a short January 2021 video interview in which Dr Zenz presents his views also on what the U.S. should do vis-a-vis China. And Jerry Grey, an Australian who has lived in China for 16 years, has written this portrait of Dr Zenz.

Dr Zenz has been criticised by critical media and investigative reporters. A particularly well-documented criticism has been produced by Gareth Porter and Max Blumenthal and published by The Grayzone carrying this subtitle ”U.S. State Department accusation of China ’genocide’ relied on data abuse and baseless claims by far-right ideologue” which displays what they call ”so much statistical malpractice.” Here are other Grayzone analyses related to the issue in general and Adrian Zenz in particular. Blumenthal explains his position here to the Chinese official Global Times.

Adrian Zenz–who seems to have visited China only once and as a tourist in 2007–has been strongly criticised by China and also by scholars at Xinjiang University (and here and here and here). At least one company in Xinjiang has sued Zenz because it believes that his research is false and rumour-based and therefore harmful to it–for which reason it demands that he apologises and pays compensation. The Chinese government has recently imposed sanctions on him, so he cannot enter China.

Naturally, there are reports and analyses which explain in different terms what is going on–some from their perspective inside China. One such example is Canadian beer brewery owner and Vlogger in Shenzhen, Daniel Dumbrill whom you may learn more about from this report by the South China Morning Post, SCMP. He has 148 000 subscribers to his YouTube Channel.

Professor Graham Perry’s homepage and this video also provide rather different facts, interpretations and perspectives.

It’s reasonable to assume that the criticism of Adrian Zenz, his methods, data collection, interpretations and conclusions–as well as his somewhat peculiar background and divine mandate–impacts considerably on The Report and its credibility. But we do not know why The Report’s authors have chosen him as their main witness instead of presenting different analyses and weighing them against each other.

The U.S. State Department doesn’t seem to know what it knows

As the last thing he did in office on January 19, 2021, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, ”determined” (here the official text) that what is going on in Xinjiang is a genocide. He also compared it to the Nazi Holocaust, thereby casting China and Xi Jinping in the role of Nazi Germany and Hitler.

However, ”the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Legal Advisor concluded earlier this year that China’s mass imprisonment and forced labor of ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang amounts to crimes against humanity–but there was insufficient evidence to prove genocide. That placed the United States’ top diplomatic lawyers at odds with both the Trump and Biden administrations, according to three former and current U.S. officials”–writes Colum Lynch in Foreign Policy.

The Biden administration has reaffirmed Pompeo’s stance and backed off a recent claim Biden’s United Nations envoy pick, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, made in her confirmation hearing that the State Department, under the Biden administration, was conducting a review of the designation.

Here is what Linda Thomas-Greenfield had to say according to Reuters: ”The State Department is reviewing that now because all of the procedures were not followed,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

They’re looking to make sure that they are followed to ensure that that designation is held.

So State Department’s Office of the Legal Advisor is of the opinion that there was not enough evidence and there were procedural problems with designating Xinjiang a ”genocide”. But the Biden administration–and the interests behind The Report–have decided to cement the Trump Administration/Pompeo and Biden/Blinken Administration and ignore that legal advice: It is a genocide!

It deserves mention that China has officially stated that it would welcome a visit by the UN Human Rights Council to Xinjiang.

Does The Report convincingly prove that this is a genocide?

Does The Report prove that the designation/determination ”genocide” is valid according to the classical definition of genocide as a series of acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group? The words ”intent” and ”destroy” are essentially important here.

At four places, The Report mentions that Chinese officials have used expressions such as ”wipe them out completely–destroy them root and branch” and ”you need to kill them all” and ”break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections and break their origins” and ”eradicating tumours” and likening the mass internment camps to ”eradicating tumours”.

These expressions–which are ascribed to the CCP leadership–stem from one source, namely Austin Ramzy and Chris Buckley “Absolutely No Mercy’: Leaked Files Expose How China Organized Mass Detentions of Muslims” in New York Times, 16 Nov. 2019. Their report presents 403 pages of internal Chinese documents that have leaked.

How has this tremendously important leak happened?

The New York Times says that ”Though it is unclear how the documents were gathered and selected, the leak suggests greater discontent inside the party apparatus over the crackdown than previously known. The papers were brought to light by a member of the Chinese political establishment who requested anonymity and expressed hope that their disclosure would prevent party leaders, including Mr. Xi, from escaping culpability for the mass detentions.”

The New York Times report also states that ”The leaked papers consist of 24 documents, some of which contain duplicated material. They include nearly 200 pages of internal speeches by Mr. Xi and other leaders, and more than 150 pages of directives and reports on the surveillance and control of the Uighur population in Xinjiang. There are also references to plans to extend restrictions on Islam to other parts of China.”

So, if we understand it correctly: There was a member of the Chinese ”political establishment” who in 2019 leaked these documents in order to tie President Xi Jinping and other leaders of the CCP and China to the alleged crimes and debunk the official Chinese claims and explanations and, therefore, that person–who The Guardian also calls a ”political insider”–requested anonymity.

It remains unclear how a Chinese political establishment insider got 403 A4 pages over to The New York Times and how the editors checked the validity of those materials. For instance–did it receive these pages directly from the insider him- or herself or via a chain of couriers? If the latter, how did it check the identity and role of that insider and the authenticity of these pages before publication? Was the insider a person who had already defected to the US, or is s/he still in China and still part of its political establishment?

This point deserves emphasis for the fundamental reason that The Report bases its determination/conclusion/advocacy that this is a genocide for which the highest Chinese leadership is responsible exclusively on this New York Times-published batch of documents the background of which we readers cannot know.

Further, it’s worth noticing also that The Report states (p 3) that ”In 2014, China’s Head of State, President Xi Jinping, launched the ”People’s War on Terror” in XUAR, making the areas where Uyghurs constitute nearly 90% of the population the front line.” This formulation followed by the above-mentioned derogative/humiliating expressions could convey the impression that Xi Jinping was out to call all Uyghurs terrorists and therefore destroy them all, starting rationally in the areas where most of them live.

However, here is how BBC formulated it on May 23, 2014, when an attack in Urumqi killed 31 and wounded 90: ”During a visit to Xinjiang last month, President Xi Jinping promised greater integration and warned terrorists would be isolated “like rats scurrying across a street”. Xi Jinping is obviously talking specifically about Uyghur terrorists and not about all Uyghurs.

The question therefore is: If the Chinese leadership is targeting only what it calls terrorists–like Western countries also do in the GWOT–and not the Uyghur people as such, what is then left of the determination that this is genocide, i.e. the destruction of an ethnic group/nation ”in whole or in part”?

What about terrorism in Xinjiang and elsewhere?

The Report does another interesting thing: It plays down completely that there have been problems with terrorism in Xinjiang. It states that ”Similar restrictions multiplied in the early 2000s, during which time Chinese authorities began referring to Uyghur dissent more frequently as “terrorism,” despite an almost complete absence of terrorist attacks” (our italics). The source for this assertion is Sean Roberts, The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Internal Campaign against a Muslim Minority (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2020) and Pablo A. Rodríguez-Merino, “Old ‘counter-revolution’, new ‘terrorism’: historicizing the framing of violence in Xinjiang by the Chinese state,” Central Asian Survey, Vol. 38, No. 1 (2019), 27-45.

Both of these publications are–from the outset–strongly critical of China’s Xinjiang policies and can be interpreted as plädoyers for the Uyghurs. Roberts who is undoubtedly a very capable researcher with lots of on-the-ground experience uses a particular definition of terrorism and the argument that to be called a terrorist is negative and traumatising. It is on the basis of this that he argues that there has been rather little terrorism in Xinjiang, although he does acknowledge (p 20 of his book) the 2009 Urumqi riots and other Uyghur-led acts of violence. On February 10, 2021, Roberts wrote an article in Foreign Affairs in support of Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo’s genocide statement–”but whatever the merits of the term [e.g. genocide and crimes against humanity], the evidence of the atrocities that China has committed against Uyghurs is undeniable.”

From a review of his book in Foreign Affairs, one understands that Roberts main thesis is that ”Harsh Chinese policies have provoked some reactive violence from Uighurs and have driven what is estimated to be tens of thousands of them to join jihadis in Syria. Roberts provides fascinating new details on that relatively marginal phenomenon, revealing that organized Uighur militancy is almost entirely illusory. Beijing’s policy of repressive assimilation has now reached such an intense stage that Roberts labels it ‘cultural genocide’.”

This is the type of documentation and interpretation the authors of The Report use–no further investigations of possible terrorism activity in Xinjiang over the last 20 or so years. Instead of doing research and also investigate, in all fairness, whether or not China also has a terrorism problem (as the U.S.-led world has had since 2001 and fought in the Global War On Terror, GWOT), the authors seem to simply compile sources that support what they want to prove–namely that China is repressing all Uyghurs because they are Uyghurs and not some because they are Uyghur terrorists.

If they had done their research–instead of ideological opinion-formation–they might have asked themselves: What has the U.S. government itself produced about terrorism in China/Xinjiang? They would then have come across ”Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001” Annual Report from the U.S. State Department and on page 16 found that Presidents George W. Bush and Jiang Zemin met in Shanghai in February 2002 (and other U.S.-China meetings took place in Washington, Beijing and Hong Kong) and that the two countries cooperated and coordinated their policies and concrete policies against terrorism with explicit reference to the terrorist activities of Uyghur groups in Xinjiang.

In this State Department analysis, we find that China is ”increasing its vigilance in Xinjiang, western China, where Uighur separatist groups have conducted violent attacks in recent years” and that ”Several press reports claimed that Uighurs trained and fought with Islamic groups in the former Soviet Union, including Chechnya. Two groups in particular are cause for concern: the East Turkestan Islamic Party (ETIP) and the East Turkestan Liberation Organization (or Sharki Turkestan Azatlik Tashkilati, known by the acronym SHAT). ETIP was founded in the early 1980s with the goal of establishing an independent state of Eastern Turkestan and advocates armed struggle. SHAT’s members have reportedly been involved in various bomb plots and shootouts. Uighurs were found fighting with al-Qaida in Afghanistan. We are aware of credible reports that some Uighurs who were trained by al-Qaida have returned to China.” (It also states that previous crackdowns by China has raised human rights concerns, without specifying which).

As a piquant detail, in 2006, American forces captured 22 Uyghur militants linked to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and imprisoned them for 5-7 years at Guantanamo and in 2018, Pentagon announced that it had bombed training centers of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in Afghanistan. More about this extremist organization created by militant Uyghurs in Xinjiang and reportedly partly funded by Osama bin Laden at the time–here at the U.S. Council of Foreign Relations, an extremely important foreign policy organization that can hardly be accused of being anti-American or pro-Chinese. ETIM was listed by the U.S. Treasury in 2002 as a terrorist organisation (and taken off again in 2004). (The Council backgrounder also presents the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) that has taken credits for violent attacks in several Chinese cities and gives a background to the Uyghurs).

Readers may also find that e.g. retired Cabinet Secretary of the Government of India, B. Raman’s, 2002 analysis ”U.S. and Terrorism in Xinjiang” in the South Asia Analysis Group highlights the immensely complex web of Uyghur-related terrorism and how the U.S. and China cooperated on counter-terrorism. (U.S. State Department seems to have stopped publishing this world-covering terrorism reports after 9/11 or, rather, after the GWOT gained momentum and global terrorism increased).

Perhaps to the surprise of quite a few, the fact is–but not mentioned in The Report–that China has not denied that it is taking hard measures in Xinjiang. Here is a Reuters report concerning an official Chinese government document: ”Authorities in China have arrested almost 13,000 “terrorists” in Xinjiang since 2014…Since 2014, Xinjiang has “destroyed 1,588 violent and terrorist gangs, arrested 12,995 terrorists, seized 2,052 explosive devices, punished 30,645 people for 4,858 illegal religious activities, and confiscated 345,229 copies of illegal religious materials”, it added…It also gave a breakdown of 30 attacks since 1990, with the last one recorded in December 2016, saying 458 people had died and at least 2,540 were wounded as a consequence of attacks and other unrest.”

You may, of course, have decided that you trust nothing coming out of official China. But if you do, these are significant figures concerning the clampdown and repression in Xinjiang. But they are also small figures compared with the human and other costs of the U.S.-led GWOT, which, to take one of many dimensions, has displaced at least 37 million people according to the US-based Brown University’s Cost of War Project. If such a displacement among innocent civilians is not a serious human rights violation, it isn’t easy to see what it is.

To summarize this point, The Report leaves substantial materials about terrorist activities in Xinjiang untold. It thereby conveys the impression that China commits an ongoing genocide on the whole Uyghurs group of 10-12 million citizens. Above, we have only highlighted a few of very many sources on this. The fact is that Wikipedia’s entry on ”Terrorism in China” offers a much more sober, balanced and factual background to this essential issue.

The authors can hardly be ignorant about these facts. Still, they have chosen to omit them and every other source and discussion about possible reasons behind the–hard–clampdown by China on Uyghur terrorism/terrorists.

Summary

The Newlines/Wallenberg Report on Genocide in Xinjiang is not trustworthy

  1. The Report is not ”independent” and does not present new materials. It’s the product of cooperation by at least six, more or less inter-connected, interest groups:
    Christian fundamentalism + hawkish U.S. foreign policy + Muslim Brotherhood circles (Ahmed Alwani) + extreme anti-Communism + pro-Israel circles + the human rights political machinery (in favour of pro-war/humanitarian intervention). They are all Near-governmental rather than Non-governmental.
    What combines them is a negative attitude, bordering on hatred, of Russia, Iran, China and a Sinophobic ideology (not only here but in many other earlier cases) on the one hand and pro-US world dominance/ interventionism (enemy image production) on the other.
    In short, six overlapping interest groups sharing some fundamental values presented as human rights concerns.
  2. The somewhat haphazardly edited Report may have been published to back up former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s ”determination” on January 19, 2021, that what goes in Xinjiang is an ongoing genocide carrying similarity with the Nazi Holocaust–the first time this word and that reference are being used. Pompeo is known to, in his capacity of CIA director and in his own words, be proud that ”we lied, cheated and stole–we had entire training courses–and it reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.” (Watch him say that 29:15 into this conversation). Mike Pompeo is also known as a Conservative Christian who, while at the West Point Military Academy, was ”brought to Jesus Christ”, and he is extremely critical of China.
  3. The Report contains both fake and dubious data and a significant, systematically biased choice of sources. It deliberately disregards or omits fundamentally important perspectives, theories, concepts and facts. At least parts of it would hardly pass as a paper for an MA course; it leaves much to be desired in terms of academic rigour, methods, knowledge and evaluation of testing the validity and reliability of materials it makes use of. This is noteworthy because the Newlines Institute professes to differ from other think tanks in that ”Unlike most think tanks, we have established an institutional method for research and analysis.” The Report reveals no such method, whether ex- or implicitly.
  4. The Report appears–whether knowingly or intentionally or not–as supportive of hardline U.S. foreign policy and as (mis)using human rights concerns to promote a confrontational policy vis-a-vis China. As shown above, a series of people connected with The Report have urged the U.S. government to take a much harder line with China to stop it from doing anything it pleases (as one of them states in the presentational video). Thus, The Report can reasonably be interpreted as pro-conflict, or pro-Cold War, ideology production that (mis)uses human rights arguments to promote hawkish policies. This is indeed a cause for serious concern because the Newlines Institute also maintains that it is guided by the 5 principles of Peace, Development, Community and Citizenship, Character and Stewardship. The Report is characterised, grosso modo, by the opposite.
    It also states under ”About” that its purpose is ”to shape U.S. foreign policy based on a deep understanding of regional geopolitics and the value systems of those regions.”
    The Report does not contain any geopolitical analysis and shows no understanding of the Chinese value system. Rather, it is systematically demonising.
  5. The Report conveys propaganda in the specific sense of treating China as the subject of all evil but omitting that an understanding of China’s policies must also include its relations, including the conflicts to which China is a party to, such as that with the U.S. China is seen as an independent variable, and, therefore, The Report can not produce any comparative perspective. To put it crudely: If what China does in Xinjiang is a genocide, are there other governments who should also be determined as pursuing genocidal policies? How does the Chinese ”war on terror” inside Xinjiang and its human costs compare with the U.S.-led Global War On Terror and its human costs?
    Of course, a human rights report can not deal with everything and all human rights issues. But since The Report and its associated interests find it urgently important to characterise China as genocidal, one would, per common sense, ask: How does the geopolitical actor who use that–extreme–term operate? And, does The Report function (of course in a small way) like a psycho-political projection that boosts an enemy image with the intention to legitimate one’s own, even more destructive, actions and policies?
  6. Given the problems we have pointed out in this analysis, one must be deeply concerned about the Western mainstream media’s systematically uncritical reception of the Newlines/Wallenberg Report. We have found none checking the sources of The Report or questioning the attention-grabbing public relation for The Report that conveys that it is an ”independent” institute and the first-ever documentation, or proof, that China is responsible for genocide.
    It should be the first duty of professional reporting to check and cross-check sources rather than–effortlessly–repeating what self-congratulatory press releases may state. Here some examples of the reporting by CNN, The Guardian, Aljazeera, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and AFP devoid of scrutiny of any kind.

It is reasonable to hypothesise that the political narrative of genocide in Xinjiang will end up the way other significant narratives before it has–e.g. of the impending genocide on Kosovo-Albanians in Yugoslavia, the Afghan terrorists committing the crime of 9/11, Saddam’s nuclear weapons, Gaddafi’s planned mass murder in Benghazi, Iran’s almost-status as nuclear power (for about 25 years) and Bashar al-Assad as the only reason behind the violence in Syria–namely as psycho-political warfare, opinion deceptions, or lies, serving the purpose of Cold War politics, military intervention, resource grabbing or destructive wars.

Whatever the truth is about the determination of genocide in Xinjiang, accusations like these serve neither good West-China relation nor the U.S. itself. The question remains–and no one in the U.S. seems to have an answer: How do we build trust, win-win cooperation and peace with China? And if we are truly concerned, how do we convey those concerns in the most effective manner?

End notes–in lieu of conclusion

Because of the world’s fundamental interconnectedness, the increasingly Cold War-like relations between The West and China have negative consequences for both systems and for the rest of the world.

Of all conflicts in our world, The West/China conflict will influence the future world order more than any other conflict. It is therefore of utmost importance to analyse what the conflicting parties say and do–in particular when one or both take steps that tend to increase both the tension and the probability of future use of violence in some form. Such heightened tension will harm them both as well as the rest of us. It will also make concerted efforts to solve all the other problems facing humanity much more difficult.

If you accuse another country of committing an ongoing genocide, the world has a right to expect that the evidence is rock solid.

We’ve written this analysis to show that the empirical basis for accusing China of ’genocide’ is surprisingly weak and that The Report from the Newlines Institute and the Raoul Wallenberg Center–which professes to deliver the ultimate proof of genocide–rests on very selective materials that, when put together, invite further confrontational policies instead of cooperative problem-solving–not to mention Western comparisons or self-reflection concerning human rights.

The Report is politicised and reflects the interests of what we call the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex, MIMAC. It contains serious flaws of investigation as well as a biased selection of sources and expertise. Furthermore, we have made the extremely serious observation that The Report has not been questioned or checked by any Western mainstream media. Despite its politicised, ideological characteristics and extremely serious accusation, it has simply been propagated.

Therefore, we do not believe that The Report is helpful from any rational perspective.

Furthermore, from a meta point of view, we do not believe in zero-sum or win-lose, but in that win-win is possible and should be tried for the common good of the West itself, China and the world. We also believe–perhaps unconventionally for Western scholarship–that multipolarity and respect for different culture’s different codes is desirable. In contrast, unipolarity based on universalising and imposing one’s own ideological norms and values upon other systems is counterproductive and undesirable.

We further believe that it is meaningful–also and particularly when in a conflict situation–to seek dialogue and cooperation rather than offence and confrontation. Cooperation does not build on similarity or common identities and goals. It can take place within the framework of unity/cooperation in diversity. It is clear that, at the moment, it is China that advocates cooperation and dialogue whereas the United States, in particular and the West in general, pursue negative and confrontational policies with a series of other countries and cultures–something indicated also by the U.S. alone having 600+ military facilities around the world and standing for more than 40% of the world’s military expenditures.

Multipolarity and mutually beneficial cooperation–as well as dialogue instead of demonisation–are conducive to violence-risk reduction and confidence-building. Accusations, sanctions, demonisation, name-calling and confrontational characterisations of the political systems and culture of other, by definition, cannot produce security, stability or peace. It closes down dialogue.

And the more this is done short-term, the less security, cooperation and peace there will be in the long-term.

• • •

APPENDIX

Materials critical to the genocide accusation/determination

Since there are so many sources that reach the masses with the genocide accusation, let’s point to a few that argue and document that there are reasons to question the ”determination” of genocide in Xinjiang–sources that do not deny the possibility that various types of involuntary re-education, interment and other human rights violations happen and sources which are not official Chinese resources and do not seem to be driven by any particular, political motive or agenda. And some sources who simply have a different understanding of China in general.

TFF does not endorse any of them or maintain, directly or indirectly, that they are closer to the truth. As of principle, we would not state such an opinion unless we had been on-the-ground in Xinjiang. Please see them as a reading and watching guide for the particularly interested readers.

We only provide the readers here of the opportunity to see other perspectives and we have found them during our own search and re-search and thought them useful also in illustrating what materials authors of The Report have chosen to not refer to or rely on.

Jerry Grey, Inconclusive conclusions lead to inadmissible evidence on Xinjiang and here and his story of living in China and bicycling in Xinjiang (video).

Maxime Vivas, The End of Uygur Fake News (in French)

Graham Perry on China and on Xinjiang

Daniel Dumbrill’s YouTube Channel

The Grayzone–Independent News and Investigative Journalism on Empire
With investigative analyst such as Max Blumenthal (editor-in-chief), Aron Maté, Gareth Porter, Ben Norton, Danny Haiphong, Ajit Singh and others.

Chas Freeman, veteran U.S. diplomat on Grayzone here and on The Transnational here.

The Qiao Collective–in general here and on Xinjiang here.

Carlos Martinez and the No Cold War Campaign, London.

Cyrus Janssen, U.S. expat, investor, his YouTube Channel.

Henry A. Kissinger–former Secretary of State and central in the US-China rapprochement 50 years ago, today warning that if the parties cannot find a basis for cooperative action, the world will slide into catastrophe comparable to World War I.

 

Monthly Review does not necessarily adhere to all of the views conveyed in articles republished at MR Online. Our goal is to share a variety of left perspectives that we think our readers will find interesting or useful. —Eds.