China gave a tour of Xinjiang and its “happy” Uyghur population to foreign officials.

Human rights activists have criticized a government-sponsored trip to Xinjiang by 25 ambassadors and other diplomats based in Beijing from developing countries for propagating a false narrative that the region’s majority Muslim Uyghur population is thriving despite harsh repression.

The diplomatic group from seven countries (Dominica, Myanmar, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Nicaragua, and Mexico) spent the week of August 1st-3rd in the western autonomous area.

The diplomats’ travels through Urumqi, Aksu, Kashgar, and other major cities in Xinjiang were chronicled by the Xinhua news agency and CGTN, China’s state-run international TV broadcaster, as they witnessed the region’s “economic and social progress” and confirmed that “the local population in Xinjiang is living a happy life.”

It would seem that the Chinese government’s efforts were successful.

Dominica, a tiny island country in the Caribbean, sent its ambassador to China, Martin Charles, who told Xinhua, “During our time in Xinjiang, we had open conversations with the local people and observed that they lead content and happy lives.”

There were no signs of human rights breaches or cases of forced labor, he claimed.

China is responding to mounting outrage from Western countries over its abuse of Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities by hosting government-organized tours for international officials and notable individuals from many professions to Xinjiang.

The U.S. government and various Western parliaments have claimed that the continuous human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions, torture, forced sterilizations of Uyghur women, and forced labor, amount to genocide and crimes against humanity.

The United Nations high commissioner for human rights produced a report about a year ago documenting incidents of grave rights violations in Xinjiang, and China has rejected it. The study suggested that the atrocities described might qualify as crimes against humanity and other international crimes.

Groups from different walks of life have been welcomed on tours of the area, but all have one thing in common: they agree with China’s “Xinjiang policy.”

“An accurate portrayal of Xinjiang’s history”

A group of African ambassadors and diplomats stationed in Beijing from nations including Senegal, Benin, Mali, Rwanda, Madagascar, Malawi, Uganda, Lesotho, and Chad visited Xinjiang in early February and voiced their support for China’s policies there.

Many of these nations’ economies have profited from Chinese-built and -financed infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative, therefore all of them continue to have close links with China. They back China’s position in the UN as well.

Diplomats who went to Xinjiang in July said they didn’t support a prior suggestion by the United Nations’ top human rights committee to have discussion on alleged rights violations against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the region. In October of 2022, the plan put out by a coalition of Western countries (including the United States) was overwhelmingly rejected.

The Chinese government held a lecture in Urumqi six days before the diplomats arrived in Xinjiang to promote its version of events there. Participants in conversations about “telling the story of Xinjiang well” underlined the need of communicating the narrative in languages other than Mandarin Chinese in order to reach international audiences.