A new state-produced Xinjiang-themed movie The Wings of Songs has hit China’s cinema’s and it portrays “the region’s rich cultural resources”, devoid of repression, mass surveillance and even the Islam of its majority Uyghur population. According to the Global Times, the movie focuses on three men from different ethnic groups dreaming of the big time as they gather musical inspiration across cultures in the snow-capped mountains and desert-scapes of the vast region. The movie has been inspired by Hollywood’s La La Land and it features the “strong ethnic characteristics of Xinjiang”.
However, The Wings of Songs is believed to an elaborate PR offensive to rebrand the north-western region where the US, other western countries and human rights groups say genocide has been inflicted on the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. While according to The Global Times, the movie presents the “colourful folk and dance traditions in Xinjiang”, it, however, omits the alleged surveillance cameras and security checks that blanket the region. Also noticeably absent are references to Islam, despite more than half of the population of Xinjiang is Muslim.
Further, the movie comes during a time when allegations of slavery and forced labour inside Xinjiang’s cotton industry have drawn renewed global attention. International brands, including Nike and H&M, have said that they would no longer source materials from the region, inside China. The brands had released statements stating that they would completely nix the use of cotton produced in China’s Xinjiang region owing to reports of human rights abuses there.
However, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) released a statement over the matter slamming foreign brands for “cutting ties” with Xinjiang cotton. The rights groups, on the other hand, have accused Beijing of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour. The European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States have sanctioned several members of Xinjiang’s political and economic hierarchy in coordinated action over the allegations.
Beijing, however, has retaliated in the forms of sanctions on individuals from the EU and Britain. China has consistently denied allegations of forced labour and other claims of human rights abuses in the area, which is home to about 11 million Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority that speak a language closely related to Turkish and have their own distinct culture.
But the US State Department estimates that since 2017, up to two million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities could have passed through the camp system, which China calls vocational training centres designed to fight extremism. Reports by Western media have also revealed that Chinese authorities were deliberately sending Uigur woman of childbearing age into forced abortions, intrauterine injections and sterilisation in the region.