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China releases anti-Uighur propaganda film "Black Hand"

Mosque in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, as photographed in 2008 (photo by jun jin luo via Wikimedia Commons)

The People's Republic of China (PRC) has released a propaganda video titled "The black hand — ETIM and terrorism in Xinjiang", in an attempt to shape the narrative surrounding its crackdown on the Uighur Muslim ethnic minority.

The propaganda film links the Uighur population to Islamic terrorism, thus trying to justify the indiscriminate persecution of the entire Muslim population.

"For decades, the [East Turkistan Islamic Movement] which has close links with international terrorist organizations perpetrated countless terrorist attacks aiming to separate the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region from China," writes China's state-run television network CGTN.

The East Turkistan Islamic Movement, or ETIM, was reportedly founded by Hasan Mahsum, an Uighur from Xinjiang's Kashgar region. He was shot dead by Pakistani troops in 2003. In 2002 the United Nations added ETIM to its list of terrorists and terrorist supporters associated with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.

While Islamic terrorism has been responsible for acts of violence in the past, the Communist authorities' version of events cannot be independently verified due to tight censorship and information control on the part of Beijing.

"The scope of ETIM's activities is not clear, " the BBC wrote in 2013. "Information from Xinjiang is tightly controlled, particularly concerning incidents that occur there. China often blames ETIM or ETIM-inspired groups for outbreaks of violence in Xinjiang, but details are hard to confirm. Sometimes differing accounts of the cause of the violence - that point to ethnic and religious tensions rather than extremism - emerge subsequently."

In 2009 peaceful demonstrations against Han domination and the murder of two Uighurs in the southern Chinese city of Shaoguan turned into riots after a violent police crackdown. In the following years a series of terrorist attacks rocked Xinjiang and other regions.

Beijing reacted by further tightening control on the population and by setting up a network of concentration camps in which Uighurs are allegedly brainwashed in order to give up their religion and ethnic identity.

According to Olsi Jazexhi, an Albanian scholar and journalist who was invited by the Chinese Communist authorities to visit Xinjiang alongside other journalists from various countries, Beijing is not fighting Islamic terrorism but pursuing a policy of forced assimilation of the Uighurs and of state-led annihilation of their culture and identity.

"On August 20, the Chinese sent us to the city of Aksu to visit the Onsu (温宿/Wensu) County Vocational Skills Training Center, " Jazexhi wrote on his website. "Here we were supposed to meet the ‘extremists and terrorists’ whom China was ‘de-radicalizing’. However, when we interviewed the ‘students’ of these ‘Vocational Training Centers’ we found that they were not student but prisoners, and they were not terrorists but Muslim believers who were forced to renounce their faith under duress. Their crimes were practicing Islam, praying to Allah, watching Muslim televangelical videos on the internet, reading the Holy Quran or articles about Islam, writing about Islam, reading Uyghur history, wearing hijab, consuming halal food ... The interviews which I have recorded and uploaded on my YouTube channel prove that the so-called ‘Vocational Training Centers’ are not schools but mass detention centers. These centers are used to mass brainwash the Turkic Muslims of China, be them Uyghur, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Uzbek, Tatar etc, and force them to renounce Islam and their Turkic identity and become Han Chinese."

Xinjiang is of fundamental economic and geopolitical importance for China due to its strategic location and natural resources. Many projects of Xi Jinping's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative pass through Xinjiang, making it an important base for the expansion of Beijing's political and economic influence in Central Asia and Europe.

The "Black Hand" is yet another example of disinformation and propaganda by the CCP regime, whose strategy is to restrict the flow of information from inside China to the outside world and make claims that cannot be independently verified so as to attempt to shape the narrative according to its own political agenda.


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