December 21, 2021 6:00 a.m. EDT
The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) has released a new report, Meet the “New” Uyghurs: CGTN’s Role in Mediawashing Genocide, documenting how Chinese state media plays a key role in the global dissemination of genocide-cleansing narratives.
From the start of the mass internment campaign in 2017, the Chinese party-state has formulated and promoted “new” (i.e., “reeducated” and ideologically “correct”) Uyghurs in a “new” Uyghur homeland.
China’s flagship international broadcaster, China Global Television Network (CGTN), is central to an influence campaign meant to convince a worldwide public that the Uyghurs and East Turkistan have been politically cleansed through reeducation, and that the region is now open for state-approved cultural tourism and economic exploitation.
“China is desperate to show the world that its so-called reeducation campaign has transformed Uyghurs, and East Turkistan into a land of opportunity. Nothing could be further from the truth. On December 9, the independent Uyghur Tribunal concluded the Chinese state is engaged in the genocide of the Uyghur people. The push by CGTN, Xinhua, and China Daily to distort reality makes them enablers in a mass ‘gaslighting’ campaign,” said UHRP Executive Director Omer Kanat.
Mr. Kanat added, “CGTN should be ‘off limits’ as a partner for any international media outlet. CGTN’s propaganda role is obvious, and it is working overtime to distribute a fake picture of Uyghur life. It’s incredible that so many overseas partners still have agreements with CGTN to use its content,” referring to CGTN video and text materials widely available in English, Spanish, Arabic and other languages globally, via apps, cable, satellite, and streaming television services.
UHRP’s report outlines CGTN’s role in Chinese party-state “mediawashing” through a text analysis of CGTN media output from 2017 to 2020. First, we examine the administrative framework, content reach, and intentions of CGTN, with reference to control by the party-state as well as the reach of CGTN’s online platforms. Then, through an analysis of 307 CGTN media texts from 2017 to 2020, as the Uyghur genocide unfolded, UHRP charts the evolution of parallel media narratives promoting a positive view of the state’s program of ideological and cultural cleansing.
The first media narrative outlines the ideological purification of Uyghurs, which enables them to participate in state-defined social and economic productivity. The second is the invented representation of a sanitized Uyghur homeland through an emphasis on staged cultural stories and physical geographies absent of human rights violations.
The current narratives of a cleansed people and land come as Uyghur identity has been deracinated through mass internment, high-tech surveillance, forced sterilization, forced labor, cultural destruction, and the eradication of organic systems of Islamic faith. The “new” Uyghurs depicted by the Chinese party-state through its CGTN proxy neither speak the Uyghur language nor believe in Islam, but express gratitude to a version of modernization soaked with human rights violations.
Mr. Kanat added, “The ‘new’ Uyghurs presented in the broadcasts of CGTN are victims too. We ask CGTN’s international partners to consider their complicity in the coverup of the Uyghur genocide. Social media platforms, Google Play, and the Apple Store, as well as cable, satellite, and streaming television services act as distributors of CGTN disinformation. It is time to end these relationships.”