The below article was published by Voice of America, photo credit: AP
WASHINGTON, DC —China’s international role has been characterized by its consistent support for the Palestinian cause, even as it has been held globally accountable for its actions in Xinjiang, particularly against the Uyghur Muslim minority.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said that China has been actively participating in the work of the United Nations and is committed to promoting peace negotiations to resolve the Palestinian issue.
“Our position on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is very close to that of the Arab countries,” the spokesman stressed. It is our sincere hope that a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine will be based on the two-State solution. ”
Critics see China’s support for Palestinian causes as a diversion from its ongoing human rights abuses in Xinjiang, including allegations of genocide, colonization and occupation.
“China’s support for the Palestinian cause is an attempt to distract itself from its genocide, colonization, and occupation in East Turkistan and to portray itself as a ‘peacemaker’ and a ‘humanitarian’ on the global stage,” Salih Hudayar, prime minister of the Washington, D.C.-based East Turkistan government-in-exile, told VOA.
Uyghur dissidents outside of China prefer to refer to their home country as East Turkestan, in stark contrast to China’s official designation of the region as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
“This support [from China] has prevented Arab and Muslim countries from expressing solidarity with the Uyghur and Turkic peoples of East Turkestan. Despite China’s contempt for Islam and its labelling of it an ‘ideological virus’ at home and its efforts to eradicate East Turkestan’s Turkic and Islamic identity, the Muslim and Arab world has remained largely silent, likely due to China’s support for Palestine,” Hudayar said.
In the wake of Hamas’s violent attacks on Israeli civilians and Israel’s retaliation in Gaza, China has chosen to condemn the violence rather than blame the perpetrators of these attacks alone.
Hudayar noted that China’s support for Palestinian armed militant groups dates back to the 60s of the last century, when the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) set up a representative office in Beijing.
At a meeting in Beijing in 1965 with representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization, then-Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai expressed his support for the Arab peoples in their resistance to “US imperialism” and Israel, the “instrument of imperialism”.
In the late 60s and 70s of the 20th century, China provided about $5 million in military and financial assistance to the PLO. China officially recognized Palestine as a state in 1988.
According to Hudayar, China’s support for Palestine is motivated by China’s strategic interests to counter the U.S.-led global order that supports Israel.
“China is eager to gain influence in the Muslim and Arab world to block potential support for Turkic Muslims such as Uyghurs,” Hudayar said. He added that China’s diplomatic relations with Israel, which were established in 1992, are largely based on technical and economic interests, especially in the field of weapons technology. In addition, China’s support for Palestine is also a means of exerting pressure and gaining influence over Israel.
“China’s position reflects its broader geopolitical strategy in the Middle East, ensuring that it does not alienate Arab and Muslim countries that support Hamas, while expanding its influence in the region and exerting influence on Israel,” Hudayar told VOA.
Hudayar also noted that China’s support for Palestine, compared to its policies in Xinjiang, exemplifies the complex dynamics of international politics, where national interests often take precedence over religious, ethnic, or humanitarian considerations.
“More importantly, China’s support for Palestine is part of a larger struggle for leadership in the global community. China is seeking to shape a new world order led by China,” Hudayar said.
Contrary to China’s international solidarity with Muslim and Arab causes, China has aggressively pursued colonization and forced assimilation campaigns in Xinjiang, which have escalated into genocide, Hudayar said.
More than three million Uyghur, Kazakh, Kirgiz, and other Turkic Muslims are held in concentration camps and prisons, and millions more are enslaved in forced labor camps. In addition, more than 880,000 Uyghur children have been forcibly separated from their families and sent to state-run boarding schools and orphanages for brainwashing education,”
Hudayar said. These heinous crimes also include the forced sterilization of Uyghur women and state-sponsored marriages of Uyghur women to Han Chinese. Religious and cultural practices have been severely suppressed, including the destruction of more than 16,000 mosques and the burning of millions of religious texts. ”
Despite these human rights violations and strong protests from the international community, Muslim countries, including Palestine, have remained silent and even expressed support for China’s mistreatment of Uyghur Muslims, Hudayar noted.
In June, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visited Beijing, where he met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and expressed support for China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims. During their meeting, Abbas sought financial assistance, and he and Xi issued a joint statement in which Abbas supported China’s domestic and foreign policies while denying human rights in Xinjiang.
In the joint statement, Abbas said that China’s actions in Xinjiang have nothing to do with human rights and are aimed at combating extremism and terrorism, stressing that Palestine opposes the use of the Xinjiang issue to interfere in China’s internal affairs. Just last week, Pakistan issued a statement at the United Nations on behalf of 72 countries in support of China’s human rights record in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong. Signatories include Palestine as well as some of the leading Muslim countries in the Middle East, such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
By the time of writing, the Palestinian Authority had not responded to VOA’s multiple media inquiries.
The United States and some other countries have formally characterized China’s actions in Xinjiang as genocide, while the UN human rights office has said they may amount to crimes against humanity. China, however, has vehemently denied the allegations, calling them fabricated.
According to Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, in recent years, diplomats and representatives of international organizations have visited Xinjiang several times.
“These visits are first-hand experience of Xinjiang’s development, freedom of religion and belief, cultural preservation, and the necessity, legitimacy, and success of the local fight against terrorism and extremism,” Liu told VOA. “Xinjiang and Tibet-related affairs are China’s internal affairs. It is pointless for a few countries to attempt to interfere in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of human rights. These countries are not at all representative of the international community. ”