New Delhi: The Chinese government has thrown open the door for tourists to Xinjiang, or at least those it deems worthy of an invite, the media reported.
While officials previously let in diplomats, journalists and those considered “friends of China”, they are now presenting the restive far-western region as a tourist destination of sorts in a bid to remove some of the tarnish from China’s image as a human rights violator in the far-western region in the eyes of the international community, Radio Free Asia reported.
Nearly 400 delegations and groups consisting of more than 4,300 people from various countries and international organisations visited the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in 2023, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, the Radio Free Asia reported.
The dissemination of propaganda and China’s efforts to enhance the image of Xinjiang have sparked criticism from human rights groups.
Claudia Bennett, a legal and program officer at Human Rights Foundation, said the orchestrated visits conceal the harsh realities of forced family separations, arbitrary detentions of millions in concentration or forced labor camps, and thousands of Uyghurs living in exile and forcibly rendered stateless, Radio Free Asia reported.
“In a strategic effort to legitimise its colonisation of the Uyghur region, the Chinese Communist Party carefully organizes propagandist visits for diplomats, journalists and religious scholars,” she told Radio Free Asia.
“These tours are designed to whitewash the CCP’s gross human rights violations.”
The US-based Uyghur Human Rights Foundation, or UHRP, called the visits “genocide tourism” in a report issued last on August 30, saying that they help China conceal genocide and crimes against humanity occurring in Xinjiang.
Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, took the criticism of the junkets a step further.
“Collaborating with China’s propaganda equates to complicity in genocide — a grave crime,” he said.
“Humanity will not forget, and the Uyghur nation will not forget. Those involved will be held accountable before history,” he added.