CAIR Op-Ed: China’s Use of Black Lives Matter to Deflect American Criticism is Both Cynical and Revealing

By Edward Ahmed Mitchell, CAIR National

In the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful. All praise and thanks belong to God. May peace and prayers be upon Prophet Muhammad and his family.

Whenever activists, reporters or foreign diplomats criticize China’s genocide of Uighur Muslims, the Chinese government usually responds with a standard line: deny wrongdoing and reject foreign interference in the country’s internal affairs.

But during a publicly televised meeting with Secretary of State Tony Blinken today, top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi tried out a new deflection tactic.

After Secretary Blinken used his two-minute opening remarks to mention that he planned to discuss China’s conduct in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, Yang used his own remarks — which lasted almost 20 minutes — to reject Blinken’s criticism by accusing the United States of hypocrisy.

“On human rights, we hope the United States will do better on human rights,” Yang’s translator said. “China has made steady progress on human rights. And the fact is that there are many problems within the United States regarding human rights, which is admitted by the US itself as well.”

A few seconds later, Yang added, “And the challenges facing the United States in human rights are deep-seated. They did not just emerge over the past four years, such as Black Lives Matter.”

These remarks were just one part of a tense, hostile and atypically undiplomatic back-and-forth that grabbed international headlines. But as an African-American, a Muslim and a civil rights attorney, that part of the exchange grabbed my attention.

After all, I can recognize that my own government is actively ignoring, enabling, defending and even committing a wide variety of human rights violations around the world. I also recognize that here at home, police brutality and other manifestations of systemic anti-Black racism are indeed deadly.

But I also recognize that the Chinese Communist Party could care less about racial equality in America, much less the rights of ethnic minorities within China. Yang’s use of Black Lives Matter to deflect legitimate criticism of his own government’s incomparably horrific crime against humanity is as transparently cynical as it is accidentally telling.

Although there is no equivalence between China’s racist genocide of Uighurs and manifestations of racism in America today, China’s use of forced labor, rape, forced sterilization, torture and murder to subject and enslave an entire ethno-religious group actually does resemble something from the story of America: how our government treated Black people for most of our history in this country.

American slave masters regularly raped Black women (and sometime, even men) in bondage. Today, China has reportedly invited Han Chinese men to enter concentration camps and rape Uighur women. Survivors of the camps have also reported being forcibly sterilized as part of China’s drive to eradicate the Uighur ethnicity in favor of the dominant Han ethnicity.

Slave masters banned Black slaves from practicing Islam or their other native religions and kidnapped their newborn children, raising them to follow a warped, pliant, racist version of Christianity. China has banned Uighurs from practicing Islam in the camps, forcing Muslims to eat pork, deny the existence of God, and worship China’s president like a deity.

American slave masters obviously used the labor of Black Americans to build a fabulously wealthy economy and country. China is forcing Uighur men and women who survive the concentration camps to work in factories, where they produce goods for China and foreign corporations, under the threat of a return to prison.

And Uighur Muslims who refuse to go along with the government’s program face various methods of brutal torture and even execution, just as Black Americans who resisted slavery and segregation did. The biggest difference is that China’s crimes against humanity are occurring in the 21st century.

Obviously, the Chinese government could care less about the accuracy of its Black Lives Matter analogy or the fact that its increasingly desperate attempts to deflect criticism is another sign that their treatment of Uighur Muslims is indefensible. But China should care about the other reason its misuse of Black Lives Matter falls so flat.

The United States made progress on racial equality because our laws gave the people of this country a chance to protest, vote, run for office, criticize our government and otherwise peacefully seek change, which is what Black Lives Matter activists and others are still doing today.

China’s fascist dictatorship gives no such opportunity to its people. Protesting is banned. Elections never occur. Foreign news outlets are censored. So is the internet. The people of China must submit to total government control or risk ending up in a concentration camp alongside Uighur Muslims.

Point being, Chinese government officials need to keep Black Lives Matter out of their mouths, give the Chinese people a voice in their governance and, most importantly, end the Uighur genocide.

Edward Ahmed Mitchell is a civil rights attorney who serves as National Deputy Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil rights organization.

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