China’s embassy in Australia has denied human rights abuses in Xinjiang in a bizarre propaganda presentation to local media.
With global pressure rising over Beijing’s appalling treatment of Uighur Muslims, China attempted to paint a rosy picture through videos and speeches beamed into Canberra from Xinjiang.
Australia has condemned restrictions on the freedom of religion, mass surveillance, extra-judicial detentions, forced labour and sterilisation, but stopped short of sanctions.
Canberra has also refrained from calling events in Xinjiang genocide as the United States and some other western nations have described them.
Ambassador Cheng Jingye used a rare media appearance at his residence to refute the claims.
“We reject those allegations which we think is fake news. Irrelevant stories that are made up by certain anti-China forces,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
The East Turkistan Australian Association condemned the communist regime for “genocide policies” that locked up millions of Uighur people in prison-style concentration camps.
“Regardless how China describes the situation, it is no longer a simple human rights concern that (Uighurs) are subjected under the pervasive ethnic genocide and other crimes against humanity,” the group said.
The presentation “Xinjiang is a Wonderful Land” was also shown in London last month as Chinese missions step up a propaganda offensive to counter its damaging human rights record.
The videos were followed by addresses from officials and other people in Xinjiang.
The speeches repeated claims of economic prosperity and religious harmony after a period of terrorist attacks.
Through a translator, Xinjiang Vice-Governor Erkin Tuniyaz said people with ulterior motives in foreign countries were turning a blind eye to people living good lives.
He said rumours had been spread about concentration camps, forced labour, religious conversions and sterilisation.
“These allegations cannot be more preposterous and they are downright lies.”
Ahead of the news conference, Prime Minister Scott Morrison signalled Australia would continue to speak out on human rights and other contentious issues.
“We want a positive relationship, but we will have a positive relationship that is consistent with Australia acting in accordance with its values and its national character,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“That would never be something that we would yield for the sake of a relationship.”
The ambassador refused to answer a broader question about the China-Australia relationship but noted the embassy had repeatedly expressed dismay about criticism of human rights.