Breaking: As Muslim countries meet in Beijing to find a solution to the ongoing bloodbath in Gaza, the Western media recycle outdated stories about China’s alleged persecution of their religion.

The publication of a study by Human Rights Watch (HRW) made headlines around the world. Numerous Western media, including The Guardian, the Australian broadcaster ABC, the British BBC, French media, and many others, reported on it. It strongly condemns China’s alleged oppression of Muslims and comes just in time for an important meeting of Muslim leaders in Beijing, sending a clear political message to these nations that China is not their friend.

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(Screenshot of the headline from The Guardian, 22.11.2023)

However, Human Rights Watch’s accusation that religion is being “Sinicized” is unfounded, as there is no evidence that efforts are being made to make religion more “Chinese”. Rather, it is a highly dubious application of the policy. The goal is to train religious leaders to be better community leaders, as anyone who reads official documents and listens to statements by Chinese officials can see. Achieving Chinese goals is the only thing being talked about, not how to make the faith more Chinese.

The Xinhua news agency reported in Chinese on the “National Religious Work Conference”, which took place in Beijing from April 22 to 23 in the presence of the Prime Minister: “The starting point and ultimate goal of implementing the policy of freedom of religious belief are to unite the majority of believers and non-believers to the greatest extent possible. Actively guiding religion to adapt to a socialist society is to guide believers to love the motherland and the people, maintain the unity of the motherland, maintain the great unity of the Chinese nation, and serve the highest interests of the country and the overall interests of the Chinese nation.” 

It also mentioned the tasks of the conference: “Deeply understand the social role of religion in China, maximize the positive role of religion, and minimize the negative role of religion; Deeply understand and adhere to the direction of Sinicization of religion in China, and continuously improve the breadth and depth of the adaptation of religion to socialist society; Deeply understand the construction of positive and healthy religious relationships, so that harmonious religious relationships can truly be implemented; Deeply understand and improve the level of legalization in religious work, and correctly handle various contradictions and problems in the field of religion in accordance with the law.” 

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Malaysian News portal FMT: “BEIJING: Muslims in China celebrated Eid al-Fitr, also known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri in Malaysia.” (Image credit: FMT)

A topical hit piece that restates outdated claims that have been made numerous times

Let’s glance quickly at the chronology:

First off, given that the policy under fire from Human Rights Watch and highlighted by The Guardian and other Western media was implemented in 2016, why is it still relevant now, particularly in light of the extensive coverage it has received in the past?

Second, why is the Uyghur Tribunal important now since it was established two years ago and was extensively covered in the media?

For years, HRW has been stating what is in its latest report: Why has it now compiled a “new” report on an issue it has already reported on extensively?

Why is it still relevant today? What is the relevance of this to what happened in Beijing today?

The response is straightforward:

The heads of state and government of several Muslim countries and representatives of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation have recognized that it would be pointless and a waste of time to urge the US to intervene and call for a ceasefire in the heavily bombed, densely populated Gaza strip. They preferred to seek a solution together with the Chinese leadership at yesterday’s meeting in Beijing, which was received with great suspicion in the West, as expected.

Unsurprisingly, the Western media preferred to broadcast Human Rights Watch’s old claims rather than report what Chinese President Xi Jinping had to say about the exceptionally brutal war in Gaza during a virtual BRICS meeting on November 21: “The collective punishment of the people of Gaza in the form of forced transfers or deprivation of water, electricity, and fuel must stop” and “Hamas must release civilian hostages“. He emphasized that there can only be a political solution here: “China supports the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people and the establishment of an independent state. There can be no security in the Middle East without a just solution to the question of Palestine. I have emphasized on many occasions that the only viable way to break the cycle of Palestinian-Israeli conflict lies in a two-state solution, in the restoration of the legitimate national rights of Palestine, and in the establishment of an independent state of Palestine.” 

The defendant’s position is suppressed

China’s point of view is simply ignored by the Western media. The two-thousand-year-old Latin phrase “audiatur et altera pars”, which means “let the other side have its say”, is invalid in the case of Washington’s rival, which must be portrayed in a one-sided and preferably negative way. This proves that Western media cannot be considered objective and fair. China itself has repeatedly responded to such accusations. Here is perhaps one of the most detailed responses for those who also want to hear the other side.

A propaganda campaign that has no impact on the Muslim world

In short, this repackaged human rights report, probably hastily put together, and the coordinated global release of its contents at the same time as the Beijing meeting, served to portray China as anti-Muslim.

However, this propaganda coup will have little effect outside the collective West as the Muslim community and the rest of the Global South/Global Majority already know the allegations are untrue. The majority of people worldwide who do not read the Anglo-Saxon media know that these claims are false, but almost all who read only the G7 “international community” media have been brainwashed into believing that China is persecuting Muslims, even if the facts tell a different story.