An image shared by China's embassy in France has sparked outrage after appearing to compare the lives of muslims in Xinjiang to the plight of those suffering in the Gaza conflict.
The controversial post on social platform X is captioned "Sans titre", which translates to "untitled" and means something along the lines of "no comment necessary".
The caption is accompanied by two images. The first is of a bright city landscape in Xinjiang, the province where China is accused of ethnic cleansing of the Uyghur people, and the second shows a scene of destruction in Gaza following intense bombing from Israel as part of the country's mission to eradicate Hamas militants in retaliation to the October 7 attack.
The comparison of the vastly different settings has been widely interpreted as a suggestion China believes it has brought great prosperity for Xinjiang's Muslim population, unlike the fate of Palestinians at the hands of Israel and the West – with the country's harshest critics accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of genocide in Gaza.
Sans titre. pic.twitter.com/JolIpmyZbA
— Ambassade de Chine en France (@AmbassadeChine) October 30, 2023
The Chinese Communist Party has vehemently denied accusations of genocide in Xinjiang despite a series of disturbing claims emerging from the province where more than one million of its Muslim Uyghur population have been imprisoned in re-education camps since 2017. Other allegations include forcing the Uyghurs into manufacturing labour camps, conducting intense surveillance, and forced sterilisations.
Backlash over Chinese official's suggestions
Social media users and activists fighting for the human rights of Uyghurs were shocked by China's suggestion Uyghurs are living a prosperous life that is seemingly portrayed in the photo.
"I see the pictures, but do you see people there, it just shows buildings. Genocide comes in all different ways, bombs don't need to be dropped," Ramila Chanisheff, President of the Australian Uyghur Tangritagh Women’s Association (AUTWA), told Yahoo News Australia after seeing the post.
Chanisheff said she was distressed to see the comparison when, in what she still refers to as East Turkestan, "people are still disappearing — they are ethnically cleansing the people".
The post was not only shared by China's embassy in France, but by Zhang Heqiang, China's director of cultural affairs in Pakistan before later deleting the post, Newsweek reported.
Dr Melanie O'Brien, Visiting Professor at the University of Minnesota and President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars told Yahoo News she was "shocked" to see the post because state-run Chinese social media accounts are usually far more measured.
"You can certainly commit genocide without razing buildings to the ground," she said, echoing Chanisheff's words.
UN condemned Chinese for crimes against humanity
On October 18, 51 United Nations member countries issued a joint declaration condemning the Chinese government’s crimes against humanity committed against Uyghurs and other Turkic communities, and urging China to end its violations of human rights in Xinjiang.
"Members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang continue to suffer serious violations of their human rights," the statement says.
China's calls for peace in Gaza a 'double standard'
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, President Xi Jinping, during a meeting with Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, has "stressed" that the top priority is to bring about a cease-fire [in Gaza] and "prevent the conflict from spreading" and "causing a severe humanitarian crisis".
Although Chanisheff agrees there must be peace in Gaza and her community "need to support the holy land", she is appalled with the double standards displayed by the Chinese government. "At the same time, China is committing horrific genocide in their own backyard," she said.
Gaza's conflict rolls on
Palestinian militant group Hamas launched cross-border raids from Gaza on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people and taking hostages. Israel then declared war with the territory, killing over 8,500 Palestinians so far, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
This comes after a long history of tension between Israel and Palestine and the removal of Palestinians since Israel’s founding in 1948.
There have been calls for a cease-fire from people across the globe, with thousands of Australians taking part in pro-Palestinian rallies despite Australian officials recently abstaining from voting on the UN's demand for a humanitarian truce.
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