On March 8, 2021, the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy in Washington published a report, The Uyghur Genocide: An Examination of China’s Breaches of the 1948 Genocide Convention in cooperation with the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights in Montreal.
By Gordon Dumoulin, Jan Oberg and Thore Vestby
It states that ”This report is the first independent expert application of the 1948 Genocide Convention to the ongoing treatment of the Uyghurs in China. It was undertaken by the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, in cooperation with the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, in response to emerging accounts of serious and systematic atrocities in Xinjiang province, particularly directed against the Uyghurs, an ethnic minority, to ascertain whether the People’s Republic of China is in breach of the Genocide Convention under international law.”
The Report – hereafter The Report – has been produced with the contributions of, and upon consultation with, numerous independent experts, including 33 who have agreed to be identified publicly, as it is stated.
The purpose of this TFF analysis is to examine the status of the Newlines Institute and the circle of scholars and others who have produced and contributed to it and their connections. It also takes a closer look at The Report’s methods and content as well as the sources on which The Report bases its extremely serious conclusion, namely that the Chinese state is responsible for committing genocide and violates the central provisions of the said Convention in its policies in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) intentionally.
TFF wants to make it very clear from the outset that we do not take a stand on whether or not what happens in Xinjiang is a genocide. As of principle, we would not state such an opinion unless we had also been on the ground in Xinjiang. The sole purpose is to examine what this first independent scholarly documentation – which was covered immediately by a wide range of Western mainstream media – is based on.
We first present the Executive Summary of our findings and then expand on a series of more specific themes and perspectives.
1. The Report and the two institutes behind it are not ”independent”, and the report does not present new materials. Co-produced with the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, it’s the product of cooperation among individuals from at least six, more or less inter-connected, interest groups, or milieus, which are more Near– than Non-governmental – namely:
Christian fundamentalism + hawkish conservative US foreign policy circles + Muslim Brotherhood circles + extreme anti-Communism + pro-Israel lobby circles + the politicising human rights machinery (in which human rights concerns tend to serve various types of interventions by the United States of America).
For a report published by independent scholars from an independent institute, this is problematic.
2. The somewhat haphazardly edited Report may have been published to back up former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s ”determination” on January 19, 2021, that what goes in Xinjiang is an ongoing genocide. No evidence accompanied it. Pompeo is known, in his capacity of CIA director and in his own words (2019), to be proud that ”we lied, cheated and stole – we had entire training courses – and it reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.” (Watch him say that 29:15 into this conversation). Mike Pompeo is also known as a Conservative Christian who, while at the West Point Military Academy, was ”brought to Jesus Christ”, and he is known to be extremely critical of China.
3. The Report comes through as containing both fake or dubious but also, significantly and systematically, biased choices of sources and as deliberately leaving out fundamentally important perspectives, theories, concepts and facts.
For an institute that professes to be based on solid scholarship and values, this is problematic.
4. The Report appears – whether knowingly or intentionally or not – as supportive of hardline US foreign policy and as exploiting human rights concerns to promote a confrontational policy vis-a-vis China.
It certainly does not conform to the values of mutual understanding and peace that the Newlines Institute states that it is based on.
5. The Report conveys propaganda in the specific sense of treating China as the subject of all evil but omitting that an understanding of China’s policies must also include its relations, including the conflictual relations it has with the US. China is seen as an independent variable and, therefore, The Report can not produce any comparative perspective. To put it crudely: If what China does in Xinjiang is a genocide, are there other actors/governments who should also be determined as pursuing genocidal policies? Or, how does the Chinese ”war on terror” inside Xinjiang and its human costs compare with the US-led Global War On Terror, GWOT, and its human costs?
6. Given the problems we point out in this analysis, one must be deeply concerned about the Western mainstream media’s systematically uncritical reception and coverage of the Newlines-Wallenberg Report. They gave it immediate and prominent attention, but we have found none of the media checking the sources of The Report or questioning that it is an ”independent” institute and the ”first ’independent’ expert application of the 1948 Genocide Convention.”
What we have found in The Report makes us believe that if this is the highest-quality documentation of a genocide in Xinjiang available, one may seriously doubt whether what goes on in Xinjiang is a genocide. And, most likely, determining it as such will only have negative consequences for US-China relations and even for the United States itself.
What we have also found is that The Report is a rather illustrative example of the discourse and interest circles that characterise what we call the MIMAC, the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex – building and expanding on the concept used for the first time by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who called it a Military-Industrial Complex, MIC, in his farewell speech in 1961.