The Newlines magazine investigation just refuses to go away. Shooting the messenger would not solve China’s problem.
by Massimo Introvigne
CCP propaganda in Xinjiang
On January 18, a shocking expose by Newlines magazine revealed that an enormous amount of money is being channeled to those CCP sympathizers in the West who deny the Uyghur genocide and claim that Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang enjoy religious liberty and live a happy life.
Let me start by stating that I am aware of Beijing’s answer to anything published by Newlines. They would say that the founder and president of its parent organization Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, Dr Ahmed Alwani, is an Islamic fundamentalist with links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Attacks published in the web sites of Chinese embassies add that Newlines reports rely on notorious anti-Chinese sources such as the BBC, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Bitter Winter (at least, we are in a good company).
My answer to this is that I have no idea of what Dr Alwani’s political or religious affiliations may be. I never met him. All what I can say is that a look at the Newlines website and its coverage of Middle East issues does not support the claim by the CCP English-language propaganda daily Global Times that it is “sponsoring terrorism.” My point, however, is that shooting the messenger does not make the message go away. As Marxists, the CCP propagandists are probably familiar with a well-known quote from Italian chief Communist ideologist Antonio Gramsci, who said that “smashing the barometer would not eliminate the bad weather.”
Newlines January 18 expose should be answered on its substance. As far as I know, so far it hasn’t. We provide a link to the article itself, which is long and full of details, so we can limit ourselves to a short summary here.
Neville Roy Singham is a secretive American billionaire of mixed Sri Lankan and Cuban heritage, who went from a youth as a militant in American Maoist groups to a well-paid consultancy work for Huawei in the 2000s. By that time, he had already founded Thoughtworks, who emerged as one of the world’s leading software developing and consultancy companies. In 2017, Singham sold Thoughtworks to the British private equity fund Apax for an undisclosed sum, probably less than Nasdaq’s current valuation of $9 billion, but still in the hundreds of millions at least.
Singham and his partner, or perhaps wife, Codie Evans (it is unclear whether they are legally married, although Evans has publicly referred to Singham as her “husband”), a co-founder of the feminist organization Code Pink, have remained active in financing a variety of left-wing causes and organizations, which have in common the support for China and a variety of other non-democratic regimes, including Maduro’s Venezuela.
Newlines discloses a very complicated system of Chinese boxes through which Singham channels huge amounts of money either directly or indirectly (using inter alia the Goldman Sachs’ Philanthropy Fund, which allows the names of the donors to remain anonymous) to organizations in the United States and Europe whose main activity is to deny the Uyghur genocide in Xinjiang. Two of Singham’s associates, Vijay Prashad, a former professor at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and British academic John Ross, are now affiliated with Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, a think tank affiliated with Beijing’s Renmin University.
Ross went on record characterizing the allegation that there is a Uyghur genocide as “farcical” and “a total lie.” Organizations connected with Singham’s network also support the Assad regime in Syria, and spread in the West propaganda coming from Russian state-owned media.
Following the links from one organization to another within the system of Chinese boxes operated by Singham and his associates is a useful exercise. It may lead inter alia to pro-China media outlets who have attacked the well-known Xinjiang scholar Adrian Zenz as well as Bitter Winter.
One question Newlines raises but does not totally answer is where the $65 million it claims were spent in the last five years supporting individual and media denying the Uyghur genocide really come from. “Comrade Singham,” as he continues to be called, is surely a billionaire, and may be ideologically motivated to spend his own money. However, Singham’s money also came and comes from undisclosed consultancy fees he once got from Huawei and continues to get from other Chinese companies. It is surely true that Singham is a respected software consultant, but one wonders whether the fees paid by Chinese corporations were also not intended to finance propaganda in the West through Singham’s pro-CCP foundations.
I may perhaps be forgiven for a final comment. It comes out that those who deny the Uyghur genocide and other CCP atrocities got $65 million in five years through the Singham network only, and probably more through the United Front and other sources. Judging from our perspective at Bitter Winter, this creates a huge unbalance, as those who lie for the CCP have at their disposal enormous resources while China critics struggle to make their ends meet. Our readers may perhaps meditate on this point. As we tell those who receive our daily newsletter, “Some Spend Billions for Their Lies: Would You Donate A Few Dollars for the Truth?”