Axios published a good item. Absolutely anyone is capable of rising to an occasion, even the publication whose entire editorial philosophy is opposed to the concepts of “rising” or “occasions.” The topic of the post was China’s abuse of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang, and on this subject, the sub-minimalist tipsheet house style served, for once, to genuinely cut the matter to the bone.
“The world shrugs as China locks up 1 million Muslims,” the headline declared, accurately. When China does its worst, it usually counts on most people not knowing or caring about what it’s doing, and on the people who do know insisting on smothering plain facts under appeals to sophistication and complexity. Here, the Axios project of ignoring nuance became functionally a matter of morality:
Why it matters: It has been two years since the internment camps first came to light internationally, and a series of reports from Xinjiang have made vivid the scale of the abuses. Yet foreign governments and corporations are content to pretend it isn’t happening.
Axios exists to tell governments and corporations what is happening! By ignoring a thing that is happening—a thing happening on an immense scale, involving at least a million human lives—the powerful and the influential were insulting the very premise of Axios. And Axios was not going to stand for it:
What they’re saying:
• Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan, which borders Xinjiang but has a deep economic reliance on China, told the FT in March: “Frankly, I don’t know much about” what’s happening to the Uighurs.
• Indonesian President Joko Widodo gave a similar answer, despite leading the world’s largest majority-Muslim country.
• UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appeared to tiptoe around the issue on a visit to China last week.
• Meanwhile the CEO of Volkswagen, which has a factory in Xinjiang, claimed last month that he was “not aware” of the mass detentions.
• The Organization of Islamic Cooperation went so far as to praise China in March for “providing care to its Muslim citizens,” while in February Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman defended China’s “right” to crack down on its Muslim citizens “for its national security.”
• The U.S. and EU have spoken out, as has Turkey, but as a Council on Foreign Relations report points out, “no country has taken action beyond issuing critical statements.”
The barrage of Zagat’s–style quotes made a mockery of the gabble of the powerful trying to evade the unspeakable. “‘Not aware'”! “‘Frankly, I don’t know much about'”! It was clear and relentless. No one could read it and say they didn’t know what was going on.