China's genocidal policy against Uyghurs, an ethnic Turkish group that inhabits Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, has witnessed another level as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is paying influencers and production companies to propagate against the minority.
According to the investigation by The Australian Financial Review, the Chinese ruling party is spending as much as USD 620,000 to create propaganda and counter global efforts to expose human rights abuses against the Uyghur people.
The Australian-based publication also revealed that the Chinese video-sharing app Douyin is one of the companies that has also received finance from the government.
Xinjiang local government tenders for operations on Douyin include a 306,000 yuan (USD 64,000) contract won in July 2021 by a company whose founder is a member of multiple organisations linked to the United Front Work Department, an arm of the CCP that conducts influence operations outside the party. Among various activities, the body has created short films and novels to push CCP lines about Xinjiang.
To counter global efforts and to white-wash its image, China has come up with a tender, across a range of media formats in late 2020, for a project named "Xinjiang is a good place," and other multiple projects. They also come up with the project, "tourism promotional film" which was won by Xinjiang Yaci Culture Development Co for nearly 3 million yuan.
The Financial Review worked with cybersecurity and intelligence company Internet 2.0, which compiled many of the tenders from publicly available sources, known as open-source intelligence. Wai-Ling Yeung, a Perth-based researcher, former head of Chinese studies at Curtin University and professional translator helped translate many documents from Mandarin to English, according to The Australian Financial Review.
Eight tender documents, most of which are associated with the Xinjiang government and various local party entities, reveal hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on campaigns to drown out dissenting voices against the CCP and paint a propaganda picture of harmony in the region.
"It's actually easier to get a broader strategic picture through open-source intelligence than it is just running on closed sources," Internet 2.0 co-chief executive Robert Potter said.
"What makes this so interesting is that China may not want this stuff out there, but their government is so large and the bureaucracy is so large that it's almost too big to hide the level of activity the Chinese government undertakes."
Many of the people associated with the winning bidders have strong ties to CCP political bodies such as the United Front Work Department, reported The Australian Financial Review.
The censorship is not limited to China's boundaries as TikTok and Douyin's parent company, ByteDance, have sparked concern because of the company's links to the CCP and its censorship practices.
This has included the shadow-banning of videos on topics such as Black Lives Matter and the blocking of accounts that spoke out about the detention of Uighur Muslims in China.
Earlier, on December 2, Forbes magazine reported that TikTok accounts run by the propaganda arm of the CCP accumulated millions of followers and views critiquing American politics ahead of the midterm elections without any disclosure the posts were by a foreign government.
"What you see being done openly in China is usually what you see being done less openly on the other version of the platform," Mr Potter said.
"What you're seeing open on the Douyin side, it points to a very significant problem with China-based social media apps, where it's just normal, it's expected, and it's not even hidden that they would run propaganda. It's a common understanding of how China's social media apps have to support the narrative," reported The Australian Financial Review. (ANI)