A handy new term has been coined among Chinese internet users: “Baizuo”, which literally translates as “white left”. It describes a particular type of ignorant, usually white, Western liberal who supports certain causes purely to “satisfy their own feelings of moral superiority”. And you won’t find a better example of the Baizuo attitude than by comparing the reactions to two events involving detention centres: the first is the detention of immigrants illegally entering the US, and the second is the mass-imprisonment of Muslim Uygurs in Xinjiang.
In April, the Trump administration passed a “zero-tolerance” policy regarding illegal border crossings, which meant that those caught entering the US illegally could be immediately prosecuted. As a result, adults and children who crossed together were separated, because children cannot be held in custody for as long as adults. This policy was criticised as being cruel because it separated families, sparking outrage from the American public and media, some of whom called the detention centres “concentration camps”.
By comparison, in China, it is estimated that more than one million Muslim Uygurs have been detained in political “re-education camps”, where they are often tortured and forced to reject their faith. The true extent of government abuse is still not known due to strict control of information.
Of these two situations, I believe that it is clear which is more severe – but if you compare the reactions of “Baizuo” social media activists, you’ll get a very different impression.
While the story of family separation was highly sensationalised, and given near-constant airtime, the situation of the Uygurs has been all but ignored by Western media. Unlike #FamiliesBelongTogether, there certainly haven’t been any hashtags in solidarity for the Uygur struggle. Surely, if one believes that “concentration camps” are inherently wrong, then one should speak out against all instances, not just those in one’s own country?
But of course, Baizuo activists have their own agenda. For the Baizuo, it is not good enough to just be a good person, you must let others know how good a person you are and have them validate you. This is why you won’t find them standing up for the Uygurs – it does not give them any social currency. Many social media users in the US won’t even have even heard of the Uygur people, let alone know about their current political situation, so making a Facebook post about their struggle isn’t going to get much of a reaction.
It is sad that so little attention is given to the struggles of unrepresented peoples in China. The Uygurs deserve liberty and autonomy. Sadly, they won’t find allies among the Baizuo of America.