Staunton, May 4 – The Russian government newspaper, Rossiiskaya gazeta, has attacked Western countries for calling the policies Beijing has adopted against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang a genocide and imposing sanctions against China because of them (rg.ru/2021/05/03/sorvana-maska-licemeriia-s-zapadnyh-klevetnikov.html).
The article’s headline originally read “The Mask of Hypocrisy has Been Torn from the Face of Western Slanderers” but then was modified to sound less like something from the darkest days of the Cold War (graniru.org/Politics/World/Asia/m.281689.html). But its message remained the same and has been repeated by a variety of Russian government outlets.
And to make sure Moscow’s message of support reached not only the Chinese government but the Chinese people, Russian government media launched a new series of articles in Russian and Chinese “unmasking Western lies,” in Moscow’s terms, about what China has been doing in Xinjiang (sinorusfocus.com/).
There is no question that what China has been doing to the Uyghurs and other Muslim minority peoples in Xinjiang amounts to a genocide, and first the United States and then other Western countries have labelled it as such and imposed sanctions. Not surprisingly, Beijing has denied everything and now Russia has joined this chorus.
That Moscow should do so is no surprise given the Kremlin’s desire to broaden and deepen its alliance with China and underscore its opposition to the West, but it is intriguing in one sense and deeply disturbing in another. It is intriguing, as many Russians surely notice, that Moscow is now following and defending China rather than the other way around as was true in the early Cold War.
And it is disturbing because having defended what the Chinese have been doing, including mass incarceration, sterilization, the introduction of massive numbers of Han Chinese into Xinjiang to change the ethnic balance of the region, and use of electronic measures to track people there, Moscow may feel it has earned the right to so something similar in Russia.
That possibility means that the non-Russian peoples within the Russian Federation may soon face even harsher treatment if Vladimir Putin decides that having defended what the Chinese are doing gives him an opening to behave in a similar way against Muslims and other groups inside the Russian Federation.
But even if that does not happen, what Moscow has now done carries with it another serious risk for the Kremlin. Many Central Asians are outraged by what China is doing, and now that Moscow has lined up with Beijing on this issue, they are likely to be increasingly angry at Russia as well.