Saturday 21st of May 2022

ASPI is NOT an independent think-tank...

aspiaspiA private citizen has debunked a think-tank’s claims of Uyghur forced labour. Media, human rights organisations and universities were MIA. Why?


In early 2020, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Limited (ASPI) made international headlines with the claim it had uncovered a systematic forced labour program taking place in China’s factories; a heinous crime orchestrated by the Chinese government against the Uyghur ethnic group from the province of Xinjiang. ASPI’s report – Uyghurs for sale: ‘Re-education’, forced labour and surveillance beyond Xinjiang – resulted in the tarnishing of many Chinese and transnational companies for their human rights abuses, as well as freeing many Uyghurs from their shackles of forced labour. An outcome to be celebrated … or so it would seem.  

Given such an outcome, it is essential that the world is confident that ASPI’s assessment of the situation is correct. If ASPI’s assessment is incorrect, then the companies that ASPI named-and-shamed, as well as the Uyghurs that worked for the companies, have suffered undeserved penalty.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, it turns out ASPI was incorrect. I uncovered this little-known fact when I undertook an in-depth analysis of the ASPI report last year. I published my findings last week. The importance of my paper cannot be overstated, as immodest as that sounds. My paper is the only analysis of the ASPI report from an international law perspective, and the only one to systematically and clinically break down ASPI’s claims into bite-size pieces to make them comprehendible to the lay reader.

In doing so, I focused on ASPI’s six case studies it put forward as evidence of forced Uyghur labour. Across the case studies, I identified 18 allegations. For each allegation, I ended up finding that they either lacked legal, meritorious or evidentiary substance.

To briefly summarise, the disinformation I identified in the ASPI report included:

  • the misrepresentation of international law so that substandard or innocuous working conditions could be classed as ‘forced labour’;
  • the misrepresentation of a Xinjiang high school as a ‘re-education camp’;
  • the misrepresentation of a counselling office as a ‘psychological dredging office’;
  • the suggestion that Uyghurs attending night-time Mandarin classes is an indicator of ‘forced labour’, while at the same time suggesting the employment of Uyghurs who don’t speak Mandarin is an indicator of ‘forced labour’;
  • quotes from a newspaper article that came out after the publication of the ASPI report, and then later changing the ASPI report publication date so that it looked like the newspaper article came out before the publication of the ASPI report; and
  • the suggestion that inconsequential or positive things such as Uyghur workers taking daily showers and eating at halal canteens are indicators of ‘forced labour’.

Passing off unsubstantiated allegations of forced labour as factual and substantial has ultimately meant it’s the Uyghurs who have suffered (an already economically disadvantaged ethnic group). You see, under international human rights law, every individual is entitled to enjoy the right to work and the right to access work-training programs; but not the Uyghurs, it would seem. When your ethnic group has the misfortune of being used by Western powerbrokers in a game of geopolitical one-upmanship, your group’s human rights can be up for the taking; especially when the game is rigged.

What ASPI may not want you to know is that, as a Commonwealth company, it has a responsibility under international soft law to respect human rights, both intra-territorially and extra-territorially. This means that ASPI was never allowed to adversely impact the work rights of the Uyghurs by falsely claiming they were ‘forced labour’, knowing, at least constructively, that this would mean employment losses in reputation-sensitive companies. The soft law I am referring to is the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (‘UN Guiding Principles’). I have argued in my paper that ASPI has breached the UN Guiding Principles, as well as the Australian government for not holding ASPI accountable for its breach.

In the end, it was a big shock to me that not one of ASPI’s specific claims of forced labour survived close scrutiny. I thought at least a few would, given how passionately international and domestic human rights organisations and mainstream media outlets promoted the ASPI report and its lead author, Ms Vicky Xiuzhong Xu. Even more shocking for me is that nearly two years have passed since the ASPI report was released and not a single mainstream media outlet, human rights organisation or university published an investigative piece like mine. The fact that it was left to a lone private citizen with no institutional backing or protection shows there are serious shortcomings within these three institutions. When the dust settles, I would like to know how this happened.

Of course, I have paid a price for daring to unmask ASPI (an armaments-industry-sponsored think tank that is mandated under its charter to work on defence and strategic policy issues, not human rights issues). What seemed like a pre-emptive strike against me was made by The Australian newspaper last year while I was working on my paper; and the victimisation has continued since publication of my paper. In case you’re curious, the line they’ve concocted is that I’m a Chinese Communist Party computer hacker who helps incarcerate Uyghur mums in concentration camps. In an era where the Western media gets a free pass on imagined subversions, conspiracy-hunting and ratchet-up charges against non-combatants for anything remotely related to China, I never stood a chance.

But, separate to me, my paper does stand a chance of being considered seriously by legal practitioners and legal scholars around the world; and that’s why ASPI should be scared. Ultimately, the affected Uyghurs just may have a chance at launching a class action against ASPI under tort law and bring ASPI to its knees.

This is not the end of my project; there’s more planned. I would like to carry out a legal analysis of Australian media companies breaching their own responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles by aiding and abetting ASPI. I would also like to conduct a field study in China so I can show ASPI the whites of the eyes of the Uyghurs they have harmed.

The project I’ve embarked on is a lot to take on for one person. I hope subscribers of Pearls & Irritations can support me. Reading my paper is a good place to start.


By Jaq James — a western propaganda analyst and assists YouTuber Daniel Dumbrill with his Australia-related content on Western media reporting about China. She holds a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) from James Cook University, a Master of Public Policy from the Australian National University, and a Master of Education from the University of Southern Queensland. She has worked and lived in China


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I hope that this paper is correct.


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ASPI propaganda...




It would no doubt be a surprise to many professionals working in the BHR space that not one of ASPI’s specific allegations stood up to close scrutiny. Of the seven allegations that had some prima facie substance, none of ASPI’s references reliably substantiated the allegations. In some cases, the evidence provided by APSI supported the opposite of ASPI’s claims. This is extraordinary in light of the fact that the Deputy Director of ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre and co-author of the ASPI report, Ms Danielle Cave, has claimed that ASPI cares about “empirical, data- driven research” and “firm facts”.126

Given the frequency of dubious arguments, unsupported and overplayed claims, poor-quality sources, lack of balance and completeness, and questionable academic integrity standards, it is submitted that it is unlikely the ASPI report is a mere case of scholarly incompetence. Rather, it is submitted that ASPI intentionally produced a piece of strategic disinformation propaganda. 


Wherever there is a serious injustice, one must always search out for the ‘why’. This paper’s case theory is that ASPI intended to: (i) further demonise the Chinese government on the international stage, regardless of the facts; (ii) disrupt the Chinese government’s worker mobility and pre-employment training programs;

(iii) disrupt Chinese companies’ supply and employment contracts; and (iv) incite discrimination against Uyghurs in the Chinese job market; which thereby
(v) undermines the economic development and social stability of Xinjiang – a geopolitical vulnerability in China’s peace and security.

It is submitted that the above explanation – as the basis for ASPI’s high volume of unsubstantiated allegations – makes more sense than the assumption that ASPI went down a good-will, ultra vires detour into the BHR space. More to the point, it is submitted that the above explanation fits very neatly into ASPI’s mandated purpose to work on ‘strategic policy’, ‘strategic issues’ and ‘strategic thinking’.127 


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ASPI bullshit...

You would think that, if an Australian think tank was warned they were contributing to violations of the human rights of an ethnic minority group, due consideration would be given to that warning. Not so when it comes to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), it would seem.



By Jaq James



Earlier this month, I published a long-form analysis showing that all of ASPI’s specific allegations of a forced Uyghur labour program did not survive legal, meritorious or evidentiary scrutiny. A summary appeared in Pearls and Irritations.

Moreover, in perpetuating unsubstantiated allegations of forced Uyghur labour, I argued ASPI was contributing to violations of the Uyghurs’ work rights in breach of ASPI’s responsibility to respect extraterritorial human rights under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. I saw this as such a serious matter, that I alerted both the Australian Attorney-General (responsible for the human rights portfolio) and the Chair-Rapporteur of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights.

As mentioned in my paper, it was very challenging to analyse ASPI’s “Uyghurs for Sale” report because I had to work out how to add order to chaos — there were so many things wrong with ASPI’s report on so many levels that a strict methodical structure had to be developed to make sense of ASPI’s mud-slinging exercise.

I settled upon selecting ASPI’s six case studies and filtering them through three separate sections: (1) a legal analysis section, where I let all of ASPI’s allegations slip through to the next section, despite the fact that the central legal element of consent to work was missing from ASPI’s discussion; (2) a merit analysis section, where only some of ASPI’s allegations were determined to be substantial enough to move on to the next section; and (3) an evidentiary analysis section, where ASPI’s substantial allegations were compared against its supporting evidence. In the first version of my paper, only seven of ASPI’s 18 allegations were deemed substantial enough to move from the merit analysis section to the evidentiary analysis section, where I found all seven allegations lacking a sound evidentiary basis. 

It was this methodology that one of the co-authors of the ASPI report, Nathan Ruser, took issue with, saying that I “simply dismissed” ASPI’s findings. I found Mr Ruser’s claim extraordinary in light of the fact that my paper is over 60 pages long, and I gave very clear reasons why so many of ASPI’s arguments lacked merit to justify moving them into an evidentiary analysis.

Unfortunately for Mr Ruser and ASPI, not taking the small mercy I offered them has now come at further embarrassment: Mr Ruser granted me the opportunity to reveal more mismatches between ASPI’s allegations and its cited evidence in the new version of my paper that addresses Mr Ruser’s complaint.

To recap, the evidentiary findings in the first version of my paper included:

  • ASPI had misrepresented a Xinjiang high school as a “re-education camp”. (ASPI based its finding on a 2018 satellite image that showed internal fences. (Yes, you read that correctly: internal fencing is ASPI’s actual threshold for declaring a re-education camp.) I identified that the internal fences were removed in a later 2019 satellite image I found, suggesting they were mere temporary construction fences. Moreover, I found plenty of photos online showing school-age children in their school uniforms partaking in school activities.)
  • ASPI’s allegation that Uyghurs were involuntarily sent to work at the Taekwang Shoes factory had been based on just two ambiguous hearsay claims, and one Uyghur worker’s ambiguous statement in broken Chinese. Moreover, these claims were from a Washington Post article that was published 1-2 days after the release of the ASPI report, clearly demonstrating the evidence cited by ASPI was not from an independent source.
  • ASPI’s allegation that Uyghurs did involuntary overtime work for the Foxconn Technology factory (a supplier of Apple) had only been based on a report of a New York NGO; ASPI had excluded the due diligence findings of Apple and Foxconn Technology that found the NGO’s allegations were false.

In the second version of my paper, the evidentiary findings included:

  • ASPI had claimed halal signs in a restaurant “across the road” from the Taekwang Shoes factory, where Uyghurs dined, had crossed out its halal signs. Yet, the photograph presented as evidence clearly showed signage in Chinese with the words “This is a halal restaurant”. Moreover, the restaurant was not “across the road” from the factory as ASPI claimed, but was “in town”, thereby having no obvious connection to the Taekwang Shoes factory. Furthermore, ASPI excluded evidence of Taekwang Shoes bringing in nine Uyghur chefs from Xinjiang to specifically prepare traditional Uyghur halal meals for the factory’s canteen each week, along with offering lambs to slaughter for Islamic celebrations.
  • ASPI had implied that Taekwang Shoes were recruiting auxiliary police to engage in coercive practices against the Uyghur workers because of an advertisement to recruit “auxiliary police” (police reserves) who could speak China’s “minority languages”. Yet, the actual recruitment advertisement was for the city of Qingdao and made no mention of Taekwang Shoes or coercive practices against Uyghurs. Moreover, the advertisement sought speakers of Japanese, Korean and English, not just China’s minority languages (of which there are 302).
  • ASPI had claimed the Taekwang Shoes factory had a “watchtower”, but the photographic evidence of the “watchtower” was so pathetically small, that it was comical when placed alongside a photograph of an actual watchtower.
  • ASPI had claimed the Taekwang Shoes factory banned the Uyghurs from religious practice, but ASPI’s evidence was merely a question put by a Washington Post reporter to the factory and the question went unanswered; there was no actual evidence of religious practice bans. Moreover, ASPI excluded evidence that the factory respected the Uyghurs’ living and religious customs.

Based on the above, I have no idea why Mr Ruser thought it would be a good thing to direct my attention to the evidence ASPI relied on to back its arguments that had already lacked merit to begin with.

My hope is ASPI staffers will be foolish enough to take another cheap shot at me. There’s more to be mined in the ASPI report, including ASPI cherry-picking more evidence from their references by excluding a tragic story of a Uyghur girl who was pulled out of school by her parents and married off at the age of 15 to a 55-year-old ‘wild imam’ to become his seventh wife. The husband would punch and kick her, not letting her go to hospital because it wasn’t ‘halal’, would force her to cover her face, and indoctrinated her with extremist ideology.

It would seem ASPI didn’t want the Australian public to know that the Chinese government helped rehabilitate this girl. No doubt, the remote regions of Xinjiang would be replete with macabre stories like this. But there will always be those in the West who subscribe to the ‘Culture Cult’ and would tell the girls that they must serve culture, not culture serve them. 


(On 12 January I sent an email to ASPI saying that Pearls and Irritations would be prepared to post any reply that ASPI would like to make to Jaq James earlier article in Pearls and Irritations. ASPI did not respond.  It was further confirming evidence to me that ASPI sees its propaganda on Uyghurs as indefensible….John Menadue)


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the tank that thinks not...

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute is irrationally hostile towards China and has unprecedented influence over Australian defence policy.



By Bruce Haigh


“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive” is a lexicon, introduced by Sir Walter Scott in the poem Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field (1808).

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) should absorb the message. For the past five years it has been deceiving and dissembling over China’s intentions in the region. Donald Trump and his acolytes got it going with substantially increased funding from the US government and arms manufacturers that saw profit in raised levels of tension. Trump thought he could bully China into allowing an uncompetitive America regain lost markets.

The Australian government also provides funding to ASPI on the basis that it gives independent advice to government. It has the status of a quango: the government appoints its director, which, with its unusual funding arrangements, makes it anything but an independent “think tank”. As a source of advice, it has the government’s ear. It has direct and privileged access. On strategic policy formation it has supplanted DFAT and Defence. It advocates greatly increased defence spending.

It is a conduit for hardline US policy towards China. It has become the stalking horse for US think tanks and agencies. It undertook research into the alleged mistreatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province. It alleged genocide, which has been resoundingly disproved, but not before it got legs in the Murdoch press. It has claimed with the use of satellite photos, presumably provided by the CIA, that millions of Uyghurs are kept in high-security detention centres undergoing political indoctrination and re-education. This was a report prepared by what is termed the “International Cyber Policy Centre” of ASPI.

An independently funded investigation, “The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Uyghurs for Sale Report: Scholarly Analysis or Strategic Disinformation?”, by analyst Jaq James, says that “given the frequency of dubious arguments, unsupported and overplayed claims, poor-quality sources, lack of balance and completeness and questionable academic integrity standards, it is submitted that ASPI intentionally produced a piece of strategic disinformation propaganda”. The James investigation comprehensively dismantled the ASPI report, bringing into question the morality and veracity of the ASPI undertaking. Why did it do it?

ASPI has been strident, some might say irrational and unbalanced, in its criticism of China over Taiwan. It has appeared as if it is trying to outdo its benefactor, the US, in seeking to impress. Quoted by Alan Macleod in MintPress this month, John Pilger says:


“ASPI has played a leading role – some would say the leading role – in driving Australia’s mendacious and self-destructive and often absurd China-bashing campaign. The current Coalition government, perhaps the most right-wing and incompetent in Australia’s recent history, has relied upon ASPI to disseminate Washington’s desperate strategic policies, into which much of the Australian political class, along with its intelligence and military structures, has been integrated.”


There is no issue that ASPI has sought to involve itself in that does not bring into question its judgment. It ran with the conspiracy theory that the Chinese government was responsible for the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan and subsequent cover-up. In its report “The Great Covid Cover-up”, ASPI wove a tale of a worldwide collusion to hide Covid’s origins and to cover for China.

ASPI has given enthusiastic support to AUKUS, conveying the impression it was in at the inception of the idea. AUKUS is probably the most ill-advised arrangement that Australia is seeking to get involved in since allowing the United States to establish Pine Gap. The purchase of nuclear-powered submarines with a delivery time of 30 years was said to be the driver behind AUKUS. I doubt it; it was more likely a smokescreen for setting up Australia as a forward US military base for confrontation with China. Talk of new submarines has been allowed to slide, replaced with discussion on the logistics of home porting US submarines at HMAS Stirling and Darwin. There is discussion on basing a variety of US combat aircraft in the Northern Territory, greatly expanding the US military base in Darwin to take an extra 6000 marines and their families (and in the process forcing the First Armoured Regiment to vacate its barracks and move to Edinburgh in South Australia).

Recently Australia purchased the M1A2, a heavy tank unsuited for operations in this region. It is said the purchase is designed to allow the training of Australian crews for deployment with the US in the Middle East and Europe. Australia has scrapped its still operational fleet of helicopters and will replace them with US choppers. Australia will manufacture tank ammunition and missiles and probably other materiel to be determined by the US. It seems major decisions relating to the ADF insofar as they relate to joint operability and the northern defence posture are being influenced if not directed by the US. Pine Gap is undergoing an expansion and refit to prepare it for the enhanced defence posture planned against China.

AUKUS will give the US unprecedented control over the ADF. It will run all operations directed against China. Those operations are likely to be similar to those deployed against the Russians during the Cold War. The possibility of miscalculation leading to a “hot” war are high. Australia could find itself at war without parliament and ministers even knowing about it, far less giving permission. This will have the effect of placing Australia on a permanent war footing.

To illustrate how unbalanced the thinking has become, the former director of ASPI, Peter Jennings, recently advocated in The Australian that Australia purchase the US B2 stealth bomber – there are only 21! Australia needs a stealth bomber as much as it needs ASPI.

Under AUKUS the US is likely to demand the ability to monitor and control aircraft and shipping within a pre-determined exclusion zone, probably centred on Darwin. The north of Australia will be placed on a heightened state of defence readiness. The British involvement in AUKUS is unlikely to survive the election of a Labour government. British involvement is nothing more than a half-cocked, messy, post-Brexit imperial Tory fantasy.

I recently commented in an interview with NetPress that:


“ASPI has supplanted the Department of Foreign Affairs in advice to the government. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, (Marise) Payne, is really very weak, and has been bypassed. So ASPI is feeding straight into the prime minister’s office on matters of foreign policy, particularly as it relates to China … This is part of the militarisation of Australia and the Australian public service.”


It is extraordinary that a foreign-funded “think tank” has such privileged access and power within government. Organisations with a hint of Chinese government funding are investigated and taken to the cleaners. Make no mistake, the US is a foreign power. It will say and do anything to advance its interests. A recent example is the US picking up the trade that Australia has lost to China.

For reasons best known to itself, Twitter recently partnered with ASPI. This consolidates a relationship under which Twitter closed more than 170,000 accounts in 2020 on the recommendation of ASPI. These accounts were regarded as dangerous because they bolstered the Communist Party of China or played down the harm alleged by the US and UK against the Uyghurs. This is a dangerous development given how ideologically positioned ASPI is on the right and how irrationally hostile it is towards China as it seeks to please the CIA and State Department.

ASPI is an important player in helping to prepare Australia for war with China. US arms manufacturers, most Republicans and conservative Democrats are working themselves up to unleash the dogs of war. They want it. They are conditioned for it. It is the only way they know how to “resolve conflict”, which in this case is the challenge to their global economic, military and political power. They do not understand diplomacy, they don’t know the art or how to practise it. Their diplomacy has always been backed by military power.

In short, the collective American psyche, reinforced by the major US power structures, has resolved to take on China. It is not a matter of if, but when. That’s what America wants to do. It has made up its mind. It is gunboat diplomacy with aircraft carriers. And ASPI is doing all it can to lock Australia into the US agenda, irrespective of the cost.








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flying the empire flag...




With about 1 million Uighurs forcibly detained at any one time in high-walled incarceration centres, ten of the world’s democratic states – including Australia – have declared diplomatic boycotts of the Games. Another half-dozen, including New Zealand, declined to send any official representatives under the pretext of COVID-19 concerns.

So, the appearance of a beaming Ms Yilamujiang lighting the Olympic cauldron in the Bird’s Nest arena was a striking gesture. How could this be a genocidal regime when it’s celebrating a star Uighur athlete for all the world to see?


“It’s a huge honour for me,” she told the Chinese Communist Party-owned Xinhua news outlet.


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WHAT DOES PETER HARTCHER DO NOT UNDERSTAND?... Ah yes, he's working for Channel Nine/SMH which is a small derivative shop of the greater Murdoch Empire media... And his masters of the West do not want any acknowledgement of Chinese success... Read from top...






the rising sun flag seeks our help against the tiger...



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how can you?.....

Stan! Stan Grant! How can you?....


Peter Jennings is the executive director of ASPI and Stan Grant is a senior fellow at ASPI.


In this special episode, ASPI’s executive director, Peter Jennings, talks with Walkley award winning journalist and ASPI senior fellow Stan Grant, who will be hosting ASPI’s conference series, ‘Strategic Vision 2020’, starting on 22 July.

Jennings and Grant consider the big strategic challenges Australia and the world are facing, as we endure the Covid-19 pandemic, a probable worldwide depression and changes to the global order.


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Another instance of censorship, along with something even more interesting.

During a televised Q&A program on Australian television, a young audience member was kicked out of the studio for asking why the media weren’t upset about the civilian casualties in the Donbass for the last eight years:


Q and A on Australian TV about the Russia/Ukraine situation

— Wittgenstein (@backtolife_2022) March 4, 2022



Several minutes after the question is asked Stan Grant, the host, breaks off the conversation to ask the questioner to leave, claiming he was “condoning violence”. Grant claims it was “bothering him”, but the fairly obvious truth is the producer is in his earpiece telling him what to do.

By way of explanation, Grant told the audience it was a “rogue” “unvetted” question. (Of course all questions to political panels are vetted — but it is nice to hear them admit it.)

But what’s interesting is that the young man claims his question wasvetted, and asks “if my question was not appropriate for the show after being vetted and edited, I wonder why I was invited at all.”

Well, one possible explanation is that it was a piece of theatre pour encourager les autres.

Invite the young man on TV, have him ask a pro-Russia question on air, and then have him kicked out. Using the earnest young man as a tool, they have established his views are totally unacceptable and will result in removal from society.

That’s the message.

As a little postscript, the host who is so “bothered” by “advocating violence” is a senior fellow of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, an “independent, non partisan think-tank” funded by the Australian government, the US government and private firms including Boeing and Lockheed Martin.


READ MORE of this at OffGuardian