US State Department issues report on China’s 'efforts to manipulate' public opinion on Xinjiang

US State Department issues report on China’s 'efforts to manipulate' public opinion on Xinjiang
A new US State Department report on China's "efforts to manipulate" the public on the Uyghur community in the Xinjiang region goes into detail about how it believes the government has been able to influence the narrative of this important story.
2 min read
Washington, D.C.
25 August, 2022
The US State Department has released a critical report on China's "disinformation campaign" of the Uyghurs. [Getty]

The US State Department issued a report on Wednesday detailing its findings on what it described as China's wide-ranging disinformation campaign related to the country's Xinjiang region. 

It claims that China "actively attempts to manipulate and dominate global discourse on Xinjiang and to discredit independent sources reporting ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity conducted against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region." 

The report addresses the Chinese government's messaging tactics, its efforts to drown out critical narratives, its work to manipulate narratives of support (commonly known as astroturfing), doctored images, silencing dissent through trolling and cyberbullying, and manipulation of the narrative of the region.  

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It delves into the country's numerous media tactics in getting its message out. These include rebutting and denying criticism from independent media sources; amplifying positive stories to distract from the country’s genocide and other crimes against humanity; and using the tactic of "whataboutism" and making false equivalencies to distract from criticism of government policies. 

Key messengers of China's disinformation campaign, according to the report, are diplomatic officials, who make use of social media to spread their messaging.

The government makes use of social media influencers to generate positive stories about the Chinese government, stir controversies and harass dissidents online.

The Chinese government also often partners with foreign media spread false positive stories about Uyghurs held in internment camps in Xinjiang, often referring to them as vocational training centres. This is then amplified through social media. 

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The report is being met with praise from civil rights groups. The Council on American-Islamic Relations welcomed it as part of several recent important reports on Uyghur human rights abuses by China, but also urged the US to rigorously enforce a new law that blocks imports connected to forced labour by Uyghurs and other persecuted groups in China.   

In a statement included in a press release issued on the same day as the State Department report, CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said, "We welcome this report detailing the Chinese government's massive worldwide disinformation campaign seeking to deflect accountability for the ongoing Uyghur genocide and to target those who speak out against its actions in violation of international law."