Extending the reach of its propaganda beyond its borders, Chinese state-owned media is running ads on Facebook seemingly designed to cast doubt on human rights violations occurring under the government’s mass incarceration of Muslim minorities in the country’s northwest Xinjiang region.
BuzzFeed News found three ads — two active and one inactive — within Facebook’s ad library extolling the alleged success stories of detainees at the camps and claiming that the detention centers were not meant to interfere with religious beliefs and practices. The two active ads had been placed in the last four days and were targeted to an audience in the United States and other countries.
The Global Times placed one of the active Facebook ads on Monday, in which it claimed that “if the centers were set up earlier, fewer violent attacks would happen.” The state-controlled tabloid, which has both Chinese- and English-language editions, is best known for its nationalistic opinion and editorial page.
Since 2017, more than a million Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities have been detained in internment camps in the Xinjiang region in northwest China. While the United States government and the international community have decried the human rights violations within these camps, the Chinese government has dismissed these criticisms, billing the imprisonment as reeducation or vocational training. Last month, the Chinese government said that most of the detainees had been released, a claim disputed in a report in the New York Times.
Accompanying the Global Times’ ad is a one-minute, thirty-six-second video captioned “Xinjiang center trainees graduate with hope for future,” showing supposedly former detainees showcasing vocational skills by binding books or making bread. Footage purportedly from the centers shows Uighur detainees in classrooms, performing dances, and playing table tennis.