Inside the 'most bizarre press conference of the year' as China spruiks life in Xinjiang

www.9news.com.au
7 min read
fairly easy
<p>This wasn&#x27;t your average media conference - and that&#x27;s putting it mildly.</p>
This wasn't your average media conference - and that's putting it mildly.

This was a performance on a grand scale, inside a palatial ballroom.

High-backed red chairs spaced apart in front of a giant screen, nearby the Australian and Chinese flags were side-by-side.

Chinese ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye speaks during the press conference on Xinjiang in Canberra. (Alex Ellinghausen/Sydney Morning Herald)

The cast featured an ambassador in a suit, joined on Zoom by a table full of men in suits, and somewhere else, a group of people claimed to be parents, workers and an imam in the north-western Chinese province of Xinjiang.

Accompanying them in this real-life political drama were highly-produced videos spruiking life in the province.

It was propaganda, delivered direct from Beijing, for "a wonderful land".

"A land of prosperity and progress."

"A land of harmony and stability."

A land where it's claimed 1 million ethnic minority Muslim Uyghurs are held in camps.

A land the Australian and New Zealand governments claim there is enough evidence of "severe human rights abuses that include restrictions on freedom of religion, mass surveillance, large-scale extra-judicial detentions, as well as forced labour and forced birth control, including sterilisation".

That's a far cry from wonderful.

But the Chinese Government has long disputed all these claims and inside the Chinese Ambassador's Residence, the defence was put on show.

"We're here to talk about Xinjiang," Ambassador Cheng Jingye beamed.

Satellite imagery of a re-education internment camp in Hotan, Xinjiang. (Maxar Technologies/Getty)

One of the videos is shown to journalists. (Alex Ellinghausen/Sydney Morning Herald)

The performance got off to a bumpy start, as technical issues meant a video selling life in the "wonderful land" did not play, then had no sound, then was restarted for the full production.

Journalists gathered in the room were treated not to one production, but multiple on…
Jonathan Kearsley
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