China scrubs evidence of Xinjiang clampdown amid ‘genocide’ debateMarch 17, 2021
Surveillance and censorship have long hindered a full view of conditions in Xinjiang. But last year Beijing locked down borders, citing the coronavirus; expelled foreign journalists who reported on Xinjiang; and scrubbed information off websites across the region.
Gene Bunin, a researcher who documents Uyghur testimonies, said he does not know of a single former detainee who managed to leave China in 2020. Coupled with harsh restrictions on Xinjiang residents communicating with outsiders, that means scant new first-person testimony for a year.
The effects of this vacuum are becoming more pronounced. Human rights activists are frustrated by the drift of discussions toward the abstract and historic. Meanwhile, Chinese propaganda outlets are seizing on vague or outdated information circulating in the West to try to discredit the broader evidence.
Questions remain about what access international investigators would receive: Xinjiang officials are known to take foreign visitors for staged tours, sometimes with officials pretending to be villagers.