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Asia Undercovered #18: China’s Xinjiang Propaganda

Asia Undercovered #18: China’s Xinjiang Propaganda

Happy Lunar New Year to those who celebrate it!

China’s Uyghur Propaganda

Propaganda is a tool of dictators and strongmen around the world, and China is using it to great effect to shape global discourse around its mass incarceration of more than a million Uyghur Muslims in secret re-education camps. Last week we saw several cases of how this propaganda effort is playing out at all levels of society, with the goal of distorting the truth about what is happening in Xinjiang.

Firstly, an official visit by a European Union delegation to Xinjiang was heavily controlled, with visits only to approved sites including a model camps that some likened to propaganda tours organized by Nazi Germany back in the 1930s (South China Morning Post).

In the US, a Chinese student group did a presentation on Uyghurs that used images from other ethnic groups, and completely ignored the reality of the human rights crisis.

In Australia, politicians are unknowingly sharing Chinese propaganda being staged by organizations connected to Beijing.

Tourism is a propaganda tool too, as Xinjiang is open to most visitors. This piece by Ruth Ingram shows how Uyghurs dancing and accepted cultural exhibitions co-exist alongside an obvious police state (The News Arab).

Undercovered this week

Myanmar held its first LGBT parade. A positive sign in a country that still has a long way to go until it achieves gender identity equality (The Nation).

Also from Myanmar: Signs that the government may try to change constitution. It could reduce the power of the military. This could set up a big battle between the military and Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (Straits Times).

Press freedom for foreign journalists in China is worsening dramatically, says a report from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China. Surveillance, intimidation, and interference are all on the rise. (Jennifer Creery for Global Voices).

India is attempting to reform labor laws in an effort to become more “business friendly,” but they could harm workers’ rights. Chandan Kumar writes for The Wire on the potential cost to informal workers who make up a huge segment of India’s workforce.

Illegal timber is a big business in China. Sixth Tone’s Shi Yi investigates how greenwashing and the use of the FSC label is allowing illegal timber to flood global markets. A well-reported investigation.


A sign of things to come in Malaysia? Pakatan Harapan lost an important by-election to longtime former ruling coalition Barisan Nasional. Channel News Asia reports on what this means less than a year after the Tsunami Rakyat.

Thailand’s election is next month. James Ockley explores the electoral strategy of the Junta leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who aims to perpetuate power as a future head of a civilian government.


China is ASEAN’s top trade partner. This means the regional entity must figure out how to work together, and main it’s moral authority in Asia (MalaysiaKini).

Wars over who owns food items, dances, or “culture” are common in Asia. This battle pits China and India over the ancient medicinal practice of Sowa Rigpa. There’s just one problem according to  Lhendup G Bhutia. It’s Tibetan (Open Magazine).

Should Canada switch diplomatic recognition from China to Taiwan? A bold argument by David Spencer in Taiwan News, which brings up the question – why does everyone choose to support a human rights offending government over East Asia’s most vibrant democracy?

And lastly, can commodity sales predict global affairs?

A city in China that dominates global wholesaling, Yiwu, has a commodity index that many believe can predict future events based on sales of goods. A fascinating read from Oiwan Lam in Global Voices.

Until next week,

Nithin Coca

Asia Undercovered: Journalist Nithin Coca's weekly roundup of the news, events, trends and people changing Asia, but not getting enough attention in the US media.