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Representatives From Xinjiang Refute Accusations of Forced Labor

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Workers and employers in garment and photovoltaic industries in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have hit back at foreign allegations of human rights abuses in their sectors during a press conference in Beijing Friday.

“I applied for the job after seeing an advert in my village three years ago. I signed the labor contract after I got employed. I’ve been working at the company for over three years. I learned computer skills and gained a basic knowledge of statistical analysis,” said Alida Turahmat, an employee of a garment manufacturing company in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture in northern Xinjiang.

Alida added that her family’s life greatly improved after she got the job.

“My parents are farmers and their incomes aren’t very high. I can get my salary on time every month and my salary has increased from 2,000 yuan (about $310) to 4,500 yuan (about $695) per month. I can buy the stuff I like, and also pay for my parents’ living expenses,” Alida said.

The woman works in an industry which is coming under fire globally over allegations of “forced labor”, which couldn’t be further from the truth, according to local officials.

“The claims of so-called ‘forced labor’ are false. Employment and labor rights of all ethnic groups are protected by law,” said Xu Guixiang, spokesperson for the Xinjiang regional government, adding that such allegations are aimed at undermining Xinjiang’s contributions to the global supply chain.

Representatives from industry associations also said that labor rights protection is at the heart of all industries in Xinjiang.

“In Xinjiang, enterprises sign labor contracts with their employees, provide them with salaries, good working and living environment. They also provide halal food for ethnic minority employees,” said Yao Yuzhen, president of the Council for Promotion of International Trade in Xinjiang. “Each enterprise has established the labor union to protect the legitimate rights and interests of all employees, including those of ethnic minorities.”

The United States announced an import ban on all cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang earlier this year.

In addition to cotton and tomatoes, Xinjiang’s photovoltaic industry is also being targeted. In March, America’s largest labor federation called on the Biden administration and Congress to stop imports of solar products from Xinjiang over “forced labor” allegations.

Representatives from that industry in Xinjiang said they’re angry over the accusations.

“Promoting the development of renewable energy, including photovoltaic, and promoting an energy revolution have become a consensus among all countries,” said He Ning, secretary of the Board and Director of Investor Relations of Xinjiang Daqo New Energy Company.

“China’s photovoltaic industry is not serving any single market, but the global market. We are not afraid of the unfair treatment. If you want to ‘extinguish’ Xinjiang’s photovoltaic industry, you need to ask whether the Chinese and global market agree,” said He.

Xinjiang regional government has responded to international claims by allowing local residents to speak for themselves.

Farmers, workers and former trainees from vocational training centers are getting opportunities to tell their stories and present a true image of the region.

Officials said they are happy for unprejudiced foreign reporters and representatives of overseas companies to experience the region for themselves.

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How Does Xi Jinping Express Gratitude And Love to his Mother?

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As International Mother’s Day, an important occasion that falls on the second Sunday of May every year, will be celebrated on May 9 this year, the media started reporting moving stories about mothers and children.

Among the stories, Xi Jinping’s stands out as he is not only a son but also the president of China.

How does the president express gratitude and love to his mother? Xi’s way can be figured out when he stressed the importance of family bonds and family love and emphasized family education on many occasions.

Xi Jinping and his mother Qi Xin. /CCTV

Pass down family tradition

When President Xi delivered his first New Year address in 2013, photos placed on his bookshelves caught the online community’s attention, especially the image of him walking hand in hand with his mother.

Xi is a filial son. He chats with his mother Qi Xin, and takes a walk with her whenever he has time.

While meeting with representatives to the first National Conference of Model Families in December 2016, Xi told a story about family education. The conference was the first of its kind to honor model families selected nationwide. A total of 300 model families were honored.

“When I was a child, my mother gave me a picture-story book series-’The Legend of Yue Fei.’ One of its more than 10 volumes shows Yue Fei’s mother tattooing four characters saying ‘serve the country with the utmost loyalty’ across his back,” Xi said, adding that the story of Yue Fei, a well-known ancient military figure fighting against invasion, deeply impressed him.

Self-discipline

Qi led a simple life, which became a tradition for the family. No matter how painstaking to take care of the family while working, she never compromised her work. Her lifestyle and the family atmosphere guided Xi’s values.

“A person who failed to be incorruptible and self-disciplined will become a person with no guts. Keep in mind that honesty is a blessing and greed is a curse while establishing a correct view of power, status, and interests,” Qi once wrote in a letter to Xi, reminding him of self-discipline. Xi has incorporated these beliefs into his ideology and governance practices.

Calling corruption the “biggest” risk to the Party’s governance, Xi has stressed there is “no alternative” but to fight corruption against all odds and called for rigorous self-discipline within the Party.

While going after corrupt officials, including both high-ranking “tigers” to lower-level “flies” on the domestic front, Beijing has also carried out such operations as “Sky Net” and “Fox Hunt” to hunt down venal officials who have fled abroad.

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Shanghai Double Five Shopping Festival to Further Boost Consumption

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The Shanghai Double Five shopping festival, part of an event that runs through the month to spur consumption, kicked off in Shanghai on the first day of the May Day Holiday.

The shopping festival, similar to the popular Double Eleven shopping festival, is jointly organized by the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), China Media Group (CMG), and the Shanghai Municipal Government.

The festival was launched in May last year by the Shanghai Municipal Government, aiming to boost consumption through e-commerce platforms. E-commerce giant Alibaba and startup Pinduoduo and other brands joined last year’s event.

The National Consumption Promotion Month, starting May 1, will last the entire month, featuring a series of activities promoting consumption across the country.

China’s consumer market has gradually recovered since this year. The newly-launched consumption promotion month will further stimulate market vitality, release consumption potential, and better serve to build a new development pattern, Wang Wentao, Chinese Minister of Commerce, said at the opening ceremony of the festival in Shanghai on Sunday.

Strong consumption has remained a major driving force for China’s economic growth for many years, and the event effectively lifts consumer confidence amidst the haze of the pandemic, Shen Haixiong, vice minister of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and CMG president, said at the ceremony.

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Producer’s Notebook: What Life is Like in Modern-Day Xinjiang

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It seems anything about Xinjiang will be criticized by the West now. And anything Chinese media do on Xinjiang will be labeled as propaganda.

That said, the new documentary, “Beyond the Mountains: Life in Xinjiang,” was not commissioned in response to the current rounds of debates, but had been planned for a very long time. It was produced together with “The War in the Shadows: Challenges of Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang,” starting from the end of August 2020. The same team, two documentaries, and two different images of Xinjiang. It’s all about how you see the region.

Breaking the stereotypes

In 2016, when we were doing a special series “Exploring China’s New Frontier,” we went to the north of Xinjiang’s Zhaosu County, in Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture. It has some of the best grasslands in Xinjiang. We wanted to go back to Zhaosu to tell the story of “Grassland Generations.”

My original thinking was traditional Kazakhs are a nomadic minority, good at singing and riding horses. I called Ili Normal University to find a male student who is majoring in music, whose grandfather lives the traditional herding lifestyle. The university provided four candidates: three music majors, and one dance major. I dismissed the dance major without hesitation, believing ballet and ethnic dancing are for women. But on second thought, I dialed his number to learn more about his story.

The story of Erjanat Nurkidir and his grandfather gave us a surprise. They became the opening story of this documentary. Erjanat’s grandfather once argued with him: “Dancing and dancing will come to nothing.” Erjanat says: “Times have changed and I have my own ideas.” When his grandfather watched him on stage, it was a revelation: “I shouldn’t have said those words.” Stereotypes are often inevitable. Sometimes, they come from ourselves.

Ordinary people with amazing stories

Xinjiang has conflicting images outside China. We try to record this region’s process of change through its people.

My first question to Samira Arkin, a bridal shop owner in Kashgar, made her cry. “What did you want to change when you returned to your hometown after graduation in 2010?”

“I saw many women covered themselves up. All women want to be pretty, so this was hard for me to take. I wanted to change how they dress and how they think about it,” says Samira.

It’s a simple wish, but back in 2010 in Kashgar, it took great courage just to think in that way. When Samira got married, she really wanted a white gown. Her extended family were all against it. When she decided to go into the bridal business in 2014, it was the same. “Many people in the old town believed dressing up and wearing makeup in public wasn’t proper.” Today, Samira says women in Kashgar dare to wear what they like, to accept the white gown and the makeup she puts on them.

This documentary profiles some 20 ordinary people like Samira. They are representatives of today’s life in Xinjiang.

Mardan Ablimit, who runs a coffee shop in Kashgar, wants to embrace modernity and combine it with tradition. “I hope to dispel all those misconceptions held by people who’ve never been here.” Memetjan Metqasim, a musician from Hotan, says his impression of Xinjiang is as richly varied as the rainbow. “The prejudices have grown out of a lack of understanding.” Meng Lulu, a leather artist in Urumqi, says Xinjiang’s ethnic culture itself is such a treasure trove. “Then you will see how different ethnic groups have mingled and lived together.” Tiemerbat Darimzhan, abbot of Balun Kure Monastery in Hejing County, says preserving the water source is as important as their religion. “Water is the milk of Mother Earth.” And Yang Zongzong, a botanist, is on a mission to find and catalogue every species. “With every new discovery, I love this land even more.” …

I think as Xinjiang continues to open up, people from around the world will have more access. The world will see a more balanced and truer picture.

To change with the changes

This documentary is also about the changes and the price of change. It’s how social changes affect the lives of ordinary people, and their efforts to bring new changes in society. Xinjiang is like many other places in China, on a track of fast development. And yet progress often comes at a cost. Many Western countries have had similar experiences that resulted in social changes, too. And the situation in Xinjiang is very complicated, as it involves ethnic, religious and anti-terrorism issues.

The changes are not only for the ethnic Uygur minority. They also affect all other ethnic groups in the region, like the Kazakhs, the Kyrgyz, and the Mongolians. Perhaps the only way to see a true picture is to give up stereotypes and keep up with the changes. As I said in the opening promo:

“Decades of development have taken modern Xinjiang from isolation to economic dynamism.

The Tianshan Mountains are part of that story …

And there are other mountains … many of them in the mind.”

Special thanks

Special thanks go to the China Society for Human Rights Studies, as well various institutions and individuals who have contributed to this program.

I’m extremely grateful to the production team, especially senior international consultant and English script editor Laurie Lew and chief photographer Huang Xiaodong. Our “triangle” produced the previous four documentaries on Xinjiang – “Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang,” “The Black Hand,” “Tianshan: Still Standing,” and “The War in the Shadows.”

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