US media reported at the end of April that the Chinese government was stepping up its international disinformation operation surrounding the mass detention of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in “re-education camps.” According to a Radio Free Asia report:
April 29, 2021 “The CCP’s information operations are growing in scale and reach,” the ASPI report said, adding that China’s approach has been to demonstrate “moral equivalence” between China’s actions and those of the U.S. “The party-state has realized that it needs to speak with a more colloquial voice if it’s to actively shape opinion in the West,” it said, adding that the CCP is also outsourcing its propaganda work to companies under the CCP’s United Front Work Department’s aegis, including the Xinjiang-based Changyu Culture. […]
Pro-China foreign nationals are also co-opted to share the posts, with a blog called Jerry’s China purportedly run by an Australian national sharing 697 Xinjiang-related posts linking to official sources in the course of 2020. CCP bot accounts with unlikely names, generic photos and similar visual markers have been proliferating too, and are used to repost state media articles and pro-China content. At the end of 2019, Changyu Culture landed a 600,000 yuan (U.S. $92,720) contract to shoot propaganda videos about the “beauty” of life in Xinjiang, producing Arabic, English, Turkish and Chinese versions, and disseminating them online. The client commissioning the video was Xinjiang Audiovisual Publishing, which counts among its shareholders the Xinjiang regional branch of the State Administration of Radio, Film and TV. Changyu Culture has its own YouTube channel, with 5,280 subscribers but only 1,437 views as of April 17, 2021. Most of its videos have garnered less than 20 views each, but all have English-language subtitles. Its content is sometimes shared by Chinese state media on social media platforms outside China.
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In March, an exclusive Global Influence Operations Report investigation exposed a Chinese influence operation flooding YouTube with hundreds of propaganda videos whitewashing China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang and pushing the hashtag #StopXinjiangRumors. The New York Times later covered the same story.
Other GIOR reporting on China’s disinformation efforts regarding the human rights situation in Xinjiang has included:
- In May, we published a GIOR investigation uncovering a Chinese influence operation flooding YouTube with hundreds of propaganda videos in which Chinese citizens denounce Western companies which criticized the human rights situation in Xinjiang.
- In April, we reported that China employs an extensive network of more than 20 million “internet commentators” to amplify content favorable to the Chinese government.
- In April, we reported that China was using Western YouTubers to defend itself against accusations of human rights violations in Xinjiang.