Chinese digital art mocks Western criticism of working conditions in Xinjiang

A digital illustration titled “Blood Cotton Initiative” by Chinese artist Wuheqilin can be seen in this handout image provided to Reuters on March 28, 2021. Wuheqilin / Handout via REUTERS

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BEIJING, March 28 (Reuters) – A digital illustration of a prominent Chinese propaganda artist mocking Western governments, media and businesses for criticizing labor conditions in Xinjiang has gone viral on Chinese social media.

Digital art by artist named Wuheqilin, referring to a mythical Chinese one-horned beast, shows two figures in white pointy hoods interviewing a scarecrow in a cotton field and black slaves.

One of the journalists holds up a microphone with a logo that looks like “BBC News”.

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At the bottom of the illustration it read: “Can you tell us what unfair treatment you received, Miss Scarecrow?”

“I was assaulted and sexually abused,” read a sign next to the scarecrow.

Stabilizing the cross on which the scarecrow is held is a hooded figure wearing a Minneapolis police uniform, an apparent reference to the officer who rested his knee on the neck of a dying George Floyd last year.

Western governments and rights groups have accused authorities in western China’s Xinjiang region of detaining and torturing Uyghurs in camps, prompting fierce denials from Beijing, which says the camps are vocational training centers that help combat religious extremism.

Earlier this year, the BBC reported that women in the camps had been victims of rape, sexual abuse and torture.

China’s Foreign Ministry said at the time that the BBC report was “without any factual basis” and that those interviewed by the BBC were “repeatedly proven” to be “actors spreading false information”.

Swedish clothing retailer H&M (HMb.ST) faced a public backlash in China last week when social media users circulated a statement from the company last year saying it would not stock up on supplies. more cotton from Xinjiang.

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The attack on Western brands follows coordinated sanctions by the United States, European Union, Canada and Britain against Chinese officials for alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang, which Washington has called genocide.

In the illustration by Wuheqilin, who collected 1 million likes, the blood red letters “HM” can be seen carved into the trunk of a tree, while in the background is a Black antique cotton scale that resembles the Nike swoosh logo.

Entitled “Blood Cotton Initiative,” the illustration also refers to the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), an international group that promotes sustainable cotton production which said in October it was suspending its approval of cotton from Xinjiang, citing human rights concerns.

Nike, H&M and a number of western brands are members of the BCI.

Wuheqilin, who has 2 million subscribers on China’s Twitter-like microblog Weibo, in December posted a digitally manipulated image of an Australian soldier holding a bloody knife to the throat of an Afghan child, sparking anger from the prime minister Australian Scott Morrison.

Wuheqilin declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

Nike, H&M and BCI did not immediately comment.

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Reporting by Ryan Woo and the Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Michael Perry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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