China premieres propaganda musical about Uighur Muslims, omits abuses

  • “The Wings of Songs”, produced by the state, released in China on March 28.
  • It shows Uighur Muslims living peacefully alongside the Han Chinese people.
  • In reality, the Uyghurs are closely monitored and detained in their homeland of Xinjiang.
  • See more stories on the Insider business page.

China released a propaganda musical that purportedly depicts the lives of Uighur Muslims, which makes no mention of mass surveillance and systematic human rights abuses.

“The Wings of Songs,” which premiered in China on March 28, follows the story of a Uyghur, a Kazakh and a Han Chinese who form a musical group in the Xinjiang region.

In the film, the relationship between the Uighurs and the Han Chinese is described as the “seeds of a pomegranate,” according to The New York Times.

In reality, Beijing has sought since at least 2017 to erase Uighur culture, detaining more than a million Uighurs in hundreds of prison camps in Xinjiang.

Earlier this year, the US State Department said the crackdown amounted to genocide. Canada and the Netherlands have said the same thing ever since.

In recent years, Chinese authorities have forced Uighurs to adopt traditional Han Chinese culture, they have tried to cut Uighur birth rates with

natality control
plans, and monitored their every move.

But “The Wings of Songs” overlooks all of these issues, according to reviews by Agence France-Presse and the Times.

Prominent examples of culture washing in the film include the fact that there are no references to Islam, AFP said, adding that more than half of Xinjiang’s population are Muslims.

Similarly, Uighur men in the film are depicted as clean-shaven and drinking alcohol, while Uighur women are seen without their traditional headscarves, the Times said.

“The idea that Uyghurs can sing and dance, therefore there is no genocide, it just isn’t going to work,” Nury Turkel, a Uighur-American lawyer, told the Times.

“Genocide can take place in any beautiful place.”

chinese uyghur protest

A protest against China’s treatment of Uighurs held in Istanbul, Turkey, in October 2020.

Murad Sezer / Reuters

While making headlines overseas, the film appears to have been a wet hit at the Chinese box office.

As of Monday, it had generated just $ 109,000, according to data from movie ticket company Maoyan, cited by the Times.

The state tabloid Global Times reported that the film was inspired by the success of the 2016 Oscar-winning musical “La La Land.”

Last month, the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada announced sanctions against two Chinese officials for “serious human rights abuses” against Uighurs.

Last week, António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said he had begun negotiating with Beijing to secure a visit to Xinjiang so that allegations of genocide could be examined.

China has denied the camps exist and state media have criticized the United States in recent weeks for meddling in its internal affairs.

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