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China has spent years cracking down on the freedoms of its Uighur Muslim minority. And as the rest of the world starts to take notice, China has ramped up propaganda efforts to hide just what it's doing, a report published Thursday from the Uighur Human Rights Project reveals.
The United Nations estimates more than a million Uighurs have been held in concentration and re-education camps, while others face constant surveillance and imprisonment for anything deemed suspicious. Uighurs' forced labor has reportedly been used to produce masks that ended up in the U.S. and products for several American brands. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists revealed a lot of this in its November 2019 "China Cables" report based on Chinese government leaks, which Beijing responded to with "outright denial," the ICIJ says.
Around the same time the China Cables were published, the Uighur Human Rights Project noticed a "huge uptick in the amount of propaganda that's being produced by the Chinese state media," UHRP project manager Nicole Morgret said. "Chinese officials have since aimed to paint a sanitized image of the camps" via social media, tours of Uighur camps for foreign diplomats and journalists, and videos where Uighurs are deny abuses, the ICIJ describes. The propaganda has been spread even through ads and Twitter bots, following Russia's strategy of spreading disinformation around the globe.