Voice for sale: A China basher breaks her silence

By Meng Zhe and Xu-Pan Yiru | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-08-26 13:06
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Vicky Xu, former researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), expelled Australian researcher Robert Barwick from a human rights forum after she was questioned about her controversial report on Xinjiang. The incident sparked discussions online, as a video clearly shows how Barwick was berated and forced out of room because his opinion differs with that of the US military funded institute.

A few years ago, Xu took up a job with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a propaganda outfit whose master is the US military industrial complex. The institute put out a report titled Uygurs for Sale, whose lead author was Xu. In it she presented a nasty, false picture of a government labor transfer program in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. This work of fiction was naturally harshly criticized by Chinese and international media professionals and academics.

Laws referred to in the report were taken out of context or unrelated to the allegations, said Jaqueline James, a legal investigator. She wrote a scathing 94-page analysis of Xu's report, saying its claims of forced labor in Xinjiang were groundless. Both the institute and the Australian government needed to protect and respect the human rights of Uygurs, James wrote.

At the recent forum, Australian researcher Robert Barwick, began to take Xu to task over some of what she said in the report. Rather than hear him out in the spirit of the full-throated free speech that Xu supposedly supports, she had him kicked out of the meeting, no further questions asked.

Xu, who was born in Jiayuguan, Gansu province, used to work as a stand-up comedian and a columnist for Australia's national broadcaster the ABC before latching on to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. It had apparently realized that having someone with Chinese roots dumping on her home team would add a touch of credibility to its propaganda. And Xu apparently saw the institute as a useful vehicle for promoting her name and her message.

For several years the recently dumped Australian government of Scott Morrison served as a totally reliable servant of the US, taking a hawkish stand against China at every turn. That fueled Sinophobia in Australia, and so-called human rights forums turned into little more than venues for China bashing. The government of Anthony Albanese seems to be taking a much more level-headed approach in its relationship with China. And what does that mean? Australia's China haters have been keen to find a new voice.

Vicky Xu calls herself a fearless critic of China and all its ills and has largely been radio silent over the past year or so. But that silence is over, and now Xu seems to be intent on keeping others silent, which is all very rich coming from someone who routinely criticizes so-called authoritarianism.

Daniel Dumbrill, a social media influencer, reckons Xu's dodgy behavior at that forum was "a desperate attempt to avoid answering a question that would've implicated her in a massive propaganda scandal that impacted the livelihoods of Uygurs".

Xu's antics may seem like harmless fun, but there is nothing funny about threats that Asian communities in Australia and elsewhere face because of them.

Cheng Jingrui and Jeffery Wang also contributed to this article.

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