China Sues Dr. Adrian Zenz, Leading Research on Persecution of Uyghurs

During a press conference on Thursday, 18 March 2021, Deputy Propaganda head of the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region publicly accused German scholar Dr. Adrian Zenz of ‘fabricating’ allegations that the CCP is engaging in multiple types of persecution and human rights violations against Uyghur and other Turkic minorities, including surveillance, arbitrary detention, forced labor, birth prevention measures, and family separation. Deputy Xu Guixiang claimed the following:

“Adrian Zenz and his so-called research reports are sure to be thrown on the dust heap of history and be despised by the 25 million people of various ethnicities in Xinjiang. “

On the contrary, Dr. Zenz reports have been perhaps the leading research and evidence that has been used by countries such as the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands to make formal determinations that the CCP is waging a genocide against its own people. Specifically, Dr. Zenz has published numerous notable exposés, including the following [both alone and in concert with other researchers]:

Voice of America reports that Dr. Zenz was the first researcher to reveal both the mass construction of detention camps in Xinjiang, as well as the program of birth prevention which has led to Uyghur population decline in recent years. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mr. Zhao Lijian, however, claimed that Dr. Zenz drafted these reports “with zero credibility” to spread “disinformation” that caused “heavy losses” to “many companies and residents in Xinjiang.”

The Chinese ministry has announced that it will be endorsing various lawsuits filed by Xinjiang companies and individuals against a specific individual report that Dr. Zenz wrote last year exposing that Uyghur and other Turkic laborers were coerced into picking cotton by hand. [Note: Xinjiang produces 84% of China’s cotton, and 22% of the world’s cotton]. Additional information regarding the lawsuits, specifically, who the plaintiffs are and how they intend to carry out the charges, has yet to be released; however, it appears that they are seeking financial compensation and an apology from Dr. Zenz.

It has also been claimed that these companies and individuals in Xinjiang will similarly file lawsuits against the BBC for its exposés on China’s human rights record in Xinjiang, reports which Deputy Xu claims present “farcical and absurd scenes” that “make people laugh.” Who aren’t laughing, however, are Uyghur and Turkic women survivors who explained to BBC the sexual violence and rape they faced in Xinjiang detention camps [See: Their goal is to destroy everyone’: Uighur camp detainees allege systematic rape and If the others go I’ll go’: Inside China’s scheme to transfer Uighurs into work]

In light of the news, numerous other humans rights researchers and advocates have come out to criticize China’s attempts to cover up its genocidal acts and crimes against humanity, and to question the outcome of the lawsuits. Many, including George Washington University Chinese law professor Donald Clarke, and Xinjiang attorney Rayhan Asat, predicted that Chinese courts will claim they won the lawsuit but will have no enforcement capabilities as Dr. Zenz is not within their jurisdiction. Human rights lawyer Chen Jiangang simply called the lawsuits “a joke, and it is just a harassment.”

Dr. Zenz himself in a phone call with MyNorthwest called the Chinese government’s attempts to censor his work a textbook example of “desperation”, and the similar crackdown on Uyghur survivors “especially disgusting.”

Cover image by Evgeni Zotov on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)