The Uighur ‘influencers’ working for Beijing’s propaganda machine

© YouTube 安妮古丽

If you watched some of the videos on YouTube featuring young Uighur influencers, then you would have no idea that a growing number of human rights organisations and the United Nations have documented China’s severe repression of this Muslim ethnic minority. In a study published mid-October, an Australian research centre has dissected more than 1,700 videos to show how they are in fact part of the complex Chinese propaganda network under President Xi Jinping.

“Do you want to know about cotton in Xinjiang? Then, follow [me]!” says a smiling young woman who presents herself online as “Anni Guli”, a Uighur resident of Xinjiang. In the video, Anni tells her followers that she will show them a cotton field in Xinjiang, an autonomous region of China and the native land of the Uighur minority.

In this video, published on Youtube in April 2021, Anni interviews someone she calls her "older sister”, who she says works in the fields. Then, she throws herself, laughing, into a fluffy pile of recently cut cotton. Maintaining a cute and cheerful tone throughout the video, Anni highlights the quality and profitability of Xinjiang cotton.

The bucolic scene in this video seems light years away from widespread evidence that the Chinese government is responsible for the persecution of the Uighur ethnic minority, under the guise of a fight against radical Islam.

Daria Impiombato is a researcher at the Australian Policy Strategy Institute (ASPI), a research centre that has published several reports on the experience of Uighurs in China.

Their work has revealed several links between these influencers and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP):

Sometimes these Uighur influences have even collaborated with YouTubers from Europe.

Read more on The Observers - France 24