A delegation of 32 envoys and senior diplomats from 30 Muslim-majority countries have paid a visit to China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to learn about the region's economic and social development.

The five-day visit took place last week and included envoys from countries including Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen and Pakistan. The delegation visited the provincial capital Urumqi in addition to Kashgar and Aksu prefectures. They were met by Ma Xingrui, secretary of the Party Committee of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

A spokesperson for the foreign Ministry, Hua Chunying said the diplomats visited mosques, Islamic schools, museums, old city renovation, grassroots communities, technology enterprises, green development and rural revitalisation projects.

What do Muslim countries have to gain from visiting Xinjiang? Does it improve bilateral relationship in any way? What are the pros and cons of such visits? Some people may think it's because they're genuinely curious, but wouldn't a surprise visit incognito be more appropriate if they're genuinely curious about Xinjiang?

It sounds more plausible that they're doing this for a specific purpose and not because they are curious about Xinjiang in any way whatsoever.


2 Answers 2


It seems this visit was organized by the Chinese government and the Chinese government officially invited these countries/ their diplomats. Refusing such an invitation could be seen as a diplomatic affront by the Chinese.

If a country doesn't want to get involved in this Uyghur topic or disagrees with the Chinese government they might still send someone but instead of sending an 'envoy or senior diplomat' they just send some irrelevant junior person. How this is then phrased and interpreted by the different sides is complicated messy diplomacy.


Well, it's a continuation of a rather known policy. As detailed in a 2019 letter addressed to the UN

We appreciate China’s commitment to openness and transparency. China has invited a number of diplomats, international organizations officials and journalist to Xinjiang to witness the progress of the human rights cause and the outcomes of counter-terrorism and deradicalization there. What they saw and heard in Xinjiang completely contradicted what was reported in the media. We call on relevant countries to refrain from employing unfounded charges against China based on unconfirmed information before they visit Xinjiang. [...]

-- Letter dated 12 July 2019 from the representatives of Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Comoros, the Congo, Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, the Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Togo, Turkmenistan, Uganda, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the State of Palestine to the United Nations Office at Geneva addressed to the President of the Human Rights Council

It's more noteworthy who didn't go or sign: Turkey which feels related by ethnicity, not just religion with Xinjiang, and their closest Arab ally, Qatar. Turkey+Qatar and Saudi+UAE have their own regional rivalries.

So by making regular visits at the invitation of China, the signatories can continue to uphold their viewpoint that it is a Western (or at best Turkish/Qatari) press invention that something untoward in happening in Xinjiang, besides a deradicalization program, which some of those countries [who did go] might be implementing themselves, in one form or another.

And of course it buys them good will from China as well. Many of those countries have substantial economic ties with China and getting hit by some kind of unofficial sanctions is something they'd rather avoid.

(N.B. Also Malaysia and Indonesia don't seem to be on that train either, but probably for somewhat different additional reasons. To be honest, I cannot seem to find a full list of whom visited at China's invitation in 2022, to see what if any interesting changes might have been since 2019.)


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