The African National Congress (ANC) says it is taking lessons from China’s unprecedented development and poverty alleviation story, seeking to implement the strategies locally for the benefit of all South Africans.
The remarks were made by Dakota Legoete, an ANC national executive committee member and member of the party’s sub-committee on international relations while speaking at the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria.
The diplomatic mission on Tuesday hosted a seminar on Xinjiang, an autonomous region in north-west China, following a visit to South Africa by a high-level delegation from the area.
Legoete said in contrast with the Western media narrative, China has experienced unprecedented success in fostering equality for all, including ethnic minorities.
“Through concerted efforts in the era of President Xi (Jinping), we have witnessed growing strength in which China's ethnic minorities have enjoyed the best years in the last two decades, in terms of economic and social development, ethnic unity, culture, education, protection of freedom of religious belief and many other aspects,” said Legoete.
“The fight against poverty in Xinjiang has made remarkable achievements, included in the celebration of elimination of absolute poverty. Through the development of the people and economy, Xinjiang has achieved great progress in human rights development, with greater integration and greater celebration of cultural diversity.
“This is a great theme for us in South Africa, a nation also borne from histories of colonialism and apartheid, which historically stocked racial and ethnic divisions. Our task as the democratic government continues to be to inculcate building of one nation, unity in diversity, a phrase popularly known and associated with our inaugural President Nelson Mandela,” he said.
China has been accused of committing crimes against humanity against the Uyghur population based in Xinjiang, and the delegation which visited South Africa had members of the Uyghur community among them who rubbished the allegations.
In her keynote address, standing committee chairperson of the People’s Congress of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Zumrat Obul, said in the region, the more than three million residents have all been lifted out of poverty.
“Absolute poverty that plagued Xinjiang for over one thousand years has been historically solved. Xinjiang has made resolute effort in winning the battle against poverty. By the end of 2020, the three million people under the poverty line in the region have all been lifted out of poverty,” she said.
On people’s freedoms, Zumrat Obul said Xinjiang has made extensive efforts in protecting the right to freedom of religious belief.
“Respect for and protection of freedom of religious belief is a long-term basic national policy of the Chinese government. Following the principles of protecting lawful activities, prohibiting illegal practices, curbing extremism, resisting infiltration and punishing crimes, Xinjiang has fully implemented the policy of freedom of religious belief, provided active guidance for religions to adapt to socialist society, and continued to promote harmonious coexistence of all religions,” she said.
“The Chinese government has channelled over 200 million yuan to build a new campus of the Xinjiang Islamic Institute which opened in 2017. Xinjiang has identified training plans and objectives in a targeted manner and nurtured a large number of high-calibre Islamic clerics to pass on the good Islamic traditions in a sound and orderly manner.”
Zumrat Obul insisted that the government’s programmes of counter-terrorism and de-radicalisation do not target any specific region, ethnic group or religion.
“Xinjiang prohibits any discriminatory practices based on religion, ethnic or religious grounds,” he said.
Addressing the seminar, Chinese Ambassador to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong said Zumrat Obul’s presentation, correctly depicted Xinjiang as a vast land with a rich history, where multiple ethnic groups and religions coexist in harmony and one that enjoys very unique ethnic cultures.
“Through the remarks delivered by Comrade Legoete and Comrade Moropa (Joyce Moloi-Moropa, national treasurer of the South African Communist Party), as well as the questions raised by other representatives, we feel that our South African friends give high recognition to Xinjiang's socio-economic development and the human rights cause,” said Chen.
“We also feel that there is strong support for China-South Africa relations and the sub-national cooperation between the two sides.
“As the chairperson (Zumrat Obul) just shared with us, under the Communist Party of China’s leadership, Xinjiang has made unprecedented achievements with a booming economy, stable society, improved livelihoods, prosperous culture, as well as ethnic groups and religions living in harmony,” said.
Chen added that the frequent reports of alleged forced labour and purported genocide are aimed at misleading the world.
“It is unfortunate, however, that some anti-China elements in the West have been pursuing their covert political agenda on Xinjiang. They have made up lies about so-called forced labour, genocide and crackdown on ethnic cultures. These moves severely undermine Xinjiang's image and misguide the world's perception of Xinjiang,” he said.
“Facts cannot be just distorted like this, and justice must always prevail. In recent years, over 2,000 experts, scholars, journalists, diplomats and religious leaders from over 100 countries have visited Xinjiang. That includes Ms Nelia Barnard, the then South Africa’s Deputy Permanent Representative to Geneva.”