- Translator: The-world
- Editor: Ranting
After writing about Xinjiang for three years, I kept asking myself: Why do I write about the Uyghur community? How much risk do you take to write? Is it worth it? I have a few points to say: First, we must report what happened to the Uyghur community, and even if it is difficult, we must write about it. The root of the “education and training centers” that imprison Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities is the complete destruction of Uyghurs and culture by the Han-dominated government. It affects about one million office workers, students, businessmen, civil servants, farmers.
Ordinary Uyghurs who have never dreamed of fighting for independence or against the government were put on black hoods, deprived of all freedom, sent to “reeducation”, and were tortured and raped in “education and training centers.” I do not need to talk about who is right or wrong in these cases. In my values, as a person, as a Han Chinese who grew up in China, it is impossible to stand idly by.
When I learned about the large-scale detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang in 2017, I was 22 years old. I was a political/media major at the University of Melbourne and worked as a freelance writer for several media such as The New York Times. At that time, friends from reporters said that the authorities would not be too concerned about writing in English, so they always wrote in English and tweeted. Some articles were later translated into Chinese. After I read them, I felt scared.
At the beginning of 2018, when I just graduated from university, I joined the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. At that time, the newsroom did not have the budget to go out for interviews, so I bought my own air ticket to the Uyghur community in Adelaide on weekends. Some local Uyghurs did not dare to trust me and were unwilling to tell me more. I watched their anger and them crying. As a Han Chinese, I felt that my life is an abundance.
Walking into their community, looking at the blue East Turkestan flags, I know that those flags symbolize sovereignty, and I know that my resistance to the word “East Turkistan” stems from more than ten years of propaganda and education by the CCP authorities. But I was still afraid. There are too many terrible things in Xinjiang.
All I wanted to do at the time was to write down the facts. Even if no one cares what the facts are. Today I have been to Adelaide five times, each time I interviewed one by one, and listened to them one after another. Watching the interviewees break into tears when they talked about their relatives in custody, I sat across from them and took notes. Going back to the office to send a letter to the Chinese official for comment, staring at my signature and shaking hands several times, I dare not click to send it.
In 2019, I worked in the Sydney branch of The New York Times. In a report, two Uyghur family members in China were sent for “educational transformation”. We asked the Chinese side to comment. We did not expect that as soon as the telegram was sent out, people would soon be released under international pressure. After this article, my relatives and friends in China began to be harassed and intimidated. At that time, a Uyghur friend said to me, “You are now like us.”
Later, after I joined the Australian Institute of Strategic Studies, I noticed that China sent many Uighurs to work in the interior. My colleagues and I checked all the way, and invited reporters from The Washington Post to visit the Nike factory in Qingdao. In March 2020, we released the research report “Uyghurs on Consignment”, which pointed out that forced labor against Uyghurs under the “Aid Xinjiang” banner was spread all over the country, and 83 companies including Nike and Apple were involved.
The article pointed out the relationship between every ordinary person in the world and the Uyghur human rights crisis: Everyone may be wearing forced labor products. This report was reprinted by media all over the world, and its impact far exceeded my expectations and my colleagues’ expectations. I haven’t bought many new clothes or new phones this year, because I feel guilty when I enter the mall and see the brands I have written.
At the same time, Guoan (CCP National Security) began to intimidate me and the people around me more and more. People close to me were detained, interrogated, harassed and isolated in China. At the end of 2020, Guoan claimed to be a detective “Thomas” and used a lame machine to translate English and spread pornographic fiction-like “sex life” revelations on the YouTube, humiliating me as a slut.
This week, I was accused of being behind the rumors of “Xinjiang Cotton”. I really dare not to have such a label. First, I have never written about Xinjiang Cotton—the forced labor report I wrote is in the manufacturing industry. Second, in the past year or two, countless other scholars and reporters have written about the forced labor of Uyghurs. Because of this, the international community and governments of all countries can reach a certain degree of consensus to sanction related companies and refuse to import related products.
Third, CCP uses “Xinjiang cotton” to confuse people. In fact, many clothing companies, electrical appliances companies, medical appliance companies, and even food companies have been involved in forced labor in Xinjiang. This issue is far more profound than “Xinjiang cotton”. The CCP side tried to confuse the issue of forced labor in Xinjiang with the issue of Sino-US competition, completely ignoring the situation that Australia, the United States, Europe, Japan and even some Chinese consumers did not want to buy forced labor products.
One of the reasons why I chose to be a reporter in the first place was because I did not have the courage to be an activist or dissident. When working in the news editing room, I dare not express my personal opinions, and only list the data like an endorsement. Now that I have been referred to by dozens of CCP media as a “witch” and “traitor”, I feel helpless and funny. From the humble “secretly using English to protect history” to the present, it has been promoted by the state machinery as a “devil” who has harmed “tens of millions of Chinese.”
If there was any thought of shutting up and protecting yourself before, it would disappear after being attacked by the entire network. I had no choice but to continue writing, until the “teaching and training center” was closed, and the forced labor was over. From my personal level, the right thing must be done, and the consequence is worth it. Because what I did, people who were harmed around me, I am sorry. That is all, thank you.