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Chinese use Muslim holiday for propaganda purposes, celebrating with Uyghurs

Authorities in Xinjiang sent local cadres to celebrate an Islamic holiday with Uyghurs in China’s far-western region amid ongoing repression of the predominantly Muslim minority group, in what Uyghur rights leaders said was a further effort to cover up the real situation there.

Known as the Feast of Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha (Qurban Eid) is a major Islamic holiday that marks the end of the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This year, the holiday began at sundown on July 8 and ended in the evening of July 9.

China’s state media reported on huiju work teams of local cadres who “visited” Uyghurs bearing gifts of food and who helped them work in their fields in celebration of the holiday.

State media also released a video of Uyghurs dancing in what some observers said were staged performances.

A report on Tengritagh (Tianshan), the official website of the XUAR government told of how visitors spent the holiday celebrating with Uyghurs and delivering gifts of rice, noodles, cooking oil and milk.

One huiju work team from the Jinghe County Water Conservancy Management Office organized a celebration with the theme “National Unity, One Family, and Eid al-Adha” in which people gathered to sing and dance at a farm in Jinghe county in Xinjiang’s Bortala Mongol Autonomous Prefecture (in Chinese, Bortala Menggu), the report said.

“Everyone dressed in festive costumes and danced gracefully,” it said. “There are well-choreographed folk dances and modern dances, as well as poetry readings and calligraphy displays. Everyone actively participated in the national unity knowledge quiz, and the activity scene was filled with the passion of unity and progress.” 

Another report on the Tengritagh website cited instances of Uyghurs expressing gratitude to the Chinese Communist Party on the holiday.

A huiju team from the State Grid Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture Power Supply Company in Shalatala village in Artush (Atushi) visited the homes of the poor and ‘went deep into the fields and helped the villagers to do farm work,’ the article said.

An elderly villager named Ani Abriz expressed gratitude for the help the team offered and was quoted as saying, “Thanks to the party and the government for their care and concern for us. The first secretary also paid for the exterior wall of our house. Our whole family was very moved.”

China’s attempts to deceive the international community by portraying ‘happy Uyghurs’ as part of its propaganda are becoming “evermore naked,” said Ilshat Hassan Kokbore, a political analyst based in the U.S. and vice chairman of the executive committee of the World Uyghur Congress.

“It’s clear from its latest propaganda blitz featuring Uyghurs ‘happily’ celebrating the Qurban Eid under the watch of fang huiju officials,” he said, referring to the cadres dispatched by the regional government to monitor Uyghurs in their homes and report their activities to authorities.

“Their job is to surveil, manipulate and even threaten the Uyghurs by forcing them to smile, look happy and perform for the state media to deceive the world,” Kokbore told RFA. “In fact, this is an intensive form of state repression that we’re witnessing. This inhuman treatment of Uyghurs is more than shocking, but pure evil.”

Rushan Abbas, executive director of the U.S.-based Campaign for Uyghurs said that “China’s manipulation and orchestration of Uyghur happiness during the Eid” would not fool anyone.

“The international community is fully aware that China has been committing an ongoing genocide against the Uyghur people and rooting out Uyghur people’s belief in Islam for the past six years,” she told RFA.

“No amount of Chinese propaganda and manufactured happiness of Uyghurs will change the fact that China is actively destroying the very foundation of Uyghur people’s religious beliefs and practices,” she said.

Earlier this year on Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, China portrayed Uyghurs in Xinjiang as enjoying religious freedom with public celebrations, contradicting documented reports by rights groups of state-backed human rights violations inside the region.

Residents of Kashgar (Kashi) said authorities allegedly paid Muslim Uyghur men to dance outside the most famous mosque in Xinjiang to celebrate the May 1-2 holiday in a performance that was recorded and released by state media ahead of an anticipated visit by the United Nations human rights chief later that month.

Since 2017, Chinese authorities have ramped up their repression of Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities throughout Xinjiang, detaining up to 1.8 million members of these groups in internment camps. The maltreatment also includes severe human rights abuses, torture and forced labor as well as the eradication of linguistic, cultural and religious traditions.

Credible reports by rights groups and Western media documenting the widespread abuse and repression in the Xinjiang have prompted the U.S. and some parliaments in Western countries to declare that the Chinese government’s action amount to a genocide and crimes against humanity.

Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.