Scholars, researchers face abuse, sanctions amid China's growing attempts to silence Xinjiang critics

Beijing [China], April 8 (ANI): Amid international condemnation over numerous human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, several China researchers are facing abuse and sanctions as Beijing is amping up its efforts to silence and intimidate critics.

According to Washington Post, Vicky Xiuzhong Xu, a 26-year-old analyst based in Australia, was labelled a traitor and a 'female demon' on social media, while people have called her family to be tracked down and ordered to apologise for raising such a daughter.

This happened after he co-wrote an Australian Strategic Policy Institute report on Uyghur labour in supply chains.

"As someone who analyzes propaganda activities for a job I can see it's clearly a coordinated attack... At this point, the Chinese government has made it abundantly clear that if you want to keep talking about Xinjiang, the Chinese state would not treat you nicely," she said.

In recent weeks, China has imposed sanctions on scholars and think tanks while state propaganda organs fanned nationalist anger at companies such as H&M and Nike for not using cotton from Xinjiang.

Dozens of Chinese celebrities have also terminated contracts or said they would cut ties with these brands, including Nike, Adidas, Puma, Converse, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and Uniqlo -- a move lauded by state media.

Last month, Beijing announced travel bans and asset freezes on over 20 scholars and officials as well as think tanks in the European Union and the United Kingdom, in response to sanctions from the United States, UK, Canada and EU, reported Washington Post.

China also barred its citizens and organisations from dealing with the blacklisted entities and individuals. Scholars have said that the latest measures on academic exchanges between China and the West will damage fragile ties and mutual understanding over the long term.

"There is no legal or moral basis for the persecution of scholars, merely because they expose and criticize a powerful government's human rights abuses," said a group of over 1,150 scholars.

Foreign scholars have also mentioned that while the Western sanctions on China target only government officials, Beijing's personal attacks against researchers and institution go well beyond and represent a shift in Beijing's focus to US allies in Europe.

According to Washington Post, European scholars said Beijing's measures were more likely to encourage China sceptics in the government and academia who see China as a rival and cautioned against an investment deal now in jeopardy because of the sanctions.

Scott Kennedy, a specialist in China's economic policies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that attacking researchers and blocking information channels would be 'incredibly damaging' for China.

He also said that since China detained the Canadian researcher Michael Kovrig in 2018, more foreign researchers have worried about travelling to China to conduct fieldwork.

"The Chinese are trying to break what they see as an anti-China alliance but I think the only effect will be that Europe is more eager to coordinate with the US," said Bjorn Jerden, director of the Swedish National China Center, who has been targeted by the new sanctions.

China has been rebuked globally for cracking down on Uyghur Muslims by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities and sending members of the community to undergo some form of forcible re-education or indoctrination.

Between one to three million Uyghurs have been detained alongside other Turkic Muslim minorities including Kazakhs. Though the Chinese government claims they are offering vocational training to fight extremism, accusations of severe torture have come to light by former detainees. (ANI) 



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