China has a new propaganda weapon to defend its policies towards Uighurs: a musical called “The Wings of Songs”.
The Chinese state-backed film, which opened in theaters last week, offers a glimpse into Xinjiang’s alternative vision that the Communist Party of China is promoting to its internal and external audiences, according to the The New York Times.
Unmusical, Uighurs and other minorities sing and dance happily in colorful costumes, a glaring view of a Chinese stereotype about minorities in the region that Uighur rights activists have denounced.
In one scene, Uighur women are seen dancing in an exciting Bollywood-style showdown with a group of Uighur men. In another, a man from Kazakhstan serenades a group of friends with a traditional two-string lute while sitting in a tent.
This musical comes at a time when Chinese propaganda campaigns have intensified, after Western politicians and human rights groups accused Beijing of subjecting Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang to forced labor and genocide.
“The notion that Uighurs can sing and dance, so there is no genocide – that is simply it will not work, ”Said Nury Turkel, American Uighur lawyer and researcher at Hudson Institute. “Genocide can take place anywhere beautiful.”
At a time when it was subject to international sanctions, China responded with a new wave of Xinjiang propaganda across a broad spectrum. The approach ranges from portraying a sanitized and cheerful version of life in Xinjiang up to sending Chinese officials to social media to attack Beijing’s critics.
According to the Chinese government, Xinjiang is now a peaceful place where Han Chinese, the nation’s dominant ethnic group, live in harmony with ethnic minorities Muslim women in the region, as well as the “seeds of a pomegranate”. It is a place where the government has succeeded emancipate women from the shackles of extremist thinking. Minorities are portrayed as grateful Government efforts.
What is the movie about?
The musical “The Wings of Songs” takes the narrative to a new level of fear-inducing. It tells the story of three young men – a Uighur, a Kazakh and a Han Chinese – who come together to pursue their musical dreams.
The film portrays Xinjiang, a predominantly Muslim region in the far west of China, free from Islamic influence. Young Uighurs are shaven and are seen to drink beer, free from beards and abstinence from alcohol that the authorities see as signs of religious extremism.
Uighur women are seen without the traditional headscarves.
Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Central Asia are also portrayed as fully assimilated by the mainstream. Are fluent in chinese, with few hints of their native languages.
Furthermore, get along well with the Han Chinese ethnic majority, with no sense of persistent resentment among Uighurs and other minorities towards systematic discrimination.
On Monday, tickets for the film earned $ 109,000, according to the Maoyan, a company that monitors these sales.
Fiction vs reality
The narrative presents a totally different from the local reality, in which authorities maintain strict control, using a dense network of surveillance cameras and police stations and detain many Uighurs and other Muslims in labor camps and prisons.
Chinese authorities initially denied the existence of these camps in the region. Then they described the facilities as “boarding schools”, where attendance was entirely voluntary. Now, the Government is increasingly adopting a more combative stance, justifying their policies as necessary to combat terrorism and separatism in the region.
Chinese authorities and state-run media have promoted the Government’s narrative of its policies in Xinjiang, in part by disseminating alternative narratives – including misinformation – on social media like Twitter e Facebook.
The campaign focuses on Chinese diplomats in the Twitter, accounts media state actors, pro-Communist party influencers and bots, who usually send messages with the aim of spread misinformation about Uighurs and defame investigators, journalists and organizations working on Xinjiang’s issues.
The Chinese party also stated that it needed to take firm action after a wave of deadly attacks that shook the region a few years ago.
Last week, the Government claimed that it had discovered a plot by Uighur intellectuals to sow ethnic hatred. THE CGTN, from China’s state broadcaster, released a documentary that accused academics of writing books that were full of “blood, violence, terrorism and separatism”.
The books have been approved for use in elementary and high schools in Xinjiang for more than a decade. Wm 2016, just before the beginning of the repression, were suddenly considered subversive.
Maria Campos, ZAP //