Canadian academic denied university work, called liar by Chinese media after exposing Uyghur camps

The long reach of China. His work was also featured in this article: Like a movie’: In Xinjiang, new evidence that China stages prayers, street scenes for visiting delegations:

Olsi Jazexhi has been busy the last couple of months.

The historian has appeared on television, made presentations at universities and written op-ed articles, all to report on the ground-breaking observations he made of the camps where China is detaining as many as a million or more Uyghur Muslims.

But the Albanian-Canadian joint citizen has suddenly been deprived of paid work, and blames fallout from his outspoken testimony.

Jazexhi was denied any courses to teach at his university in Albania this semester, the first time that has happened since he started there four years ago.

Meanwhile, he’s been accused of lying and spreading “fake news” by Chinese Communist Party media and even a Chinese ambassador.

Jazexhi says the university rector told him only that the decision on his teaching work was out of her hands. In a country that has grown increasingly close to China, and where his university also has ties to Beijing, he believes he is being punished for the Uyghur exposés.

“I don’t have any proof … but I see with concern the great influence (the Chinese) are having in my university, and other universities in Albania,” he said in an interview. “There was no reason for them to reject me.”

Charles Burton, a China expert at Ontario’s Brock University who spoke alongside Jazexhi at campus talks in Montreal and Hamilton recently, said he has no direct knowledge of the history PhD’s employment record.

But he said it’s more than plausible the academic is facing retribution.

“It seems like a likely scenario to me,” said Burton. “Olsi has made an enormous contribution to our understanding of the situation in Xinjiang.”

Olsi Jazexhi: “There was no reason for them to reject me.” YouTube/File

Neither the university’s rector, Kseanela Sotirofski, nor Endri Fuga, spokesman for Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, responded to emailed requests for comment on Jazexhi’s case.

While he immigrated to Canada a decade ago and did a post-doctoral fellowship at Toronto’s York University, Jazexhi divides his time between here and Albania.

On Tuesday, he, former Canadian MP David Kilgour and others were part of a panel discussion at the European Parliament in Brussels on the Uyghur situation.

Jazexhi’s role in exposing China’s treatment of the group centred in Jinjiang province is an unusual one. Convinced that reports of systematic repression of the minority were a plot by the West to turn Muslims against China, he obtained a spot on a stage-managed media tour of Jinjiang earlier this year.

But instead of reporting back that all was well, he documented with video-recorded interviews what he considered a systematic attempt to suppress the Uyghur’ language, culture and religion.

China says it’s “vocational training” centres are designed to de-radicalize extremist Muslims and prevent terrorism.

But a teacher at one centre revealed on video to Jazexhi that “students” at the camps are not even allowed to pray, and a typical reason for ending up at the facility was getting married according to Muslim tradition and not obtaining a government marriage licence.

His videos showed detainees refusing to speak their Turkic language and responding to his repeated Muslim greetings with “ni hao,” Mandarin for hello. Students revealed in interviews they had been sent to the camp for such offences as downloading videos saying Muslims should not join the Communist Party, taking part in “illegal” Koran classes and reading material encouraging Muslims to pray regularly.

The recent leak of a trove of internal Chinese government documents offered a written account of the country’s Uyghur policy, but Jazexhi’s videos provide a unique glimpse inside the camps.

The Global Times, a tabloid-like Communist Party newspaper, published two articles wholly or partly dedicated to discrediting him, one last week saying Jazexhi “spread fake information on the region and what he did was out of malice and went against the basic professional ethics as a reporter.”

In Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper, the Chinese ambassador to Turkey decried an article of Jazexhi’s “in which facts are distorted and basic knowledge is absent. It is hard to believe that its author is a ‘historian.’ ”

Meanwhile, though Albania is still part of NATO and trying to join the EU, it has forged ever-closer ties with Beijing, according to leading China expert Anne-Marie Brady of New Zealand’s University of Canterbury. Albania is a founding member of the 17+1 alliance of China, central Asian and eastern European countries, and part of Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure-investment initiative.

A Chinese company took over management of the capital’s international airport in 2016. The same year, Canada’s Bankers Petroleum sold its Albanian oil rights to China’s Geo-Jade Petroleum in the wake of controversial fraud allegations against it.

Jazexhi said his own university also has links, with rector Sotirofski signing a co-operation agreement with Yangzhou University last year in China, a Chinese-run Confucius Institute on campus, and professors often taking all-expense-paid trips there.

Source: Canadian academic denied university work, called liar by Chinese media after exposing Uyghur camps

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: