A court in Xinjiang will hear a defamation case against a German researcher who has accused Beijing of large-scale human rights abuses against Muslims in the far-western region.
A court in Kashgar, the biggest city in southern Xinjiang, accepted the civil case filed by Shache Xiongying Textile Limited on April 2, according to a Friday post by ts.cn, a news outlet affiliated with the Xinjiang government.
A spokesman said the company had suffered from heavy economic losses due to Zenz’s “distorted” studies. The lawsuit asks the court to order Zenz to stop his research, pay compensation and apologise to the company.
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The US-based researcher is banned from entering China or doing business there and it is not clear how such an order could be enforced if the court rules against him.
Zenz said on Monday he has never been contacted directly about the lawsuit. “It’s all claims, unverified claims. They might be gradually trying to use this for propaganda purposes,” he said.
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of actions against the researcher, who has published reports that say the mainly Uygur Muslims in the region have been subjected to mass detention, forced sterilisation and forced labour. Some Western governments, including the United States, have now described Beijing’s actions as “genocide”.
Some international textile and fashion companies are currently seeking to make sure their supply chains exclude products or materials from the region over concerns about forced labour.
Zenz was one of the individuals placed on a sanctions list last month in retaliation for sanctions from the European Union – the bloc’s first against China since the 1989 Tiananmen killings – by banning European government bodies, politicians, academics and a think thank from visiting or doing business with China.
Beijing has also exchanged similar sanctions with the United States, Canada and Britain over Xinjiang.
“The sanctions and the lawsuit against me just shows that Beijing is getting quite desperate,” said Zenz, calling them “ridiculous”.
Beijing has mobilised its state apparatus to respond to international pressure over its Xinjiang policies, which include calls to boycott cotton from the region or the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Early last month a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Beijing supported the suit, adding that Zenz will one day “face the condemnation of conscience and judgment of justice”.
The case highlights the increased significance Beijing attaches to legal instruments.
Last month, a local Chinese court issued an injunction in a dispute between smartphone giant Xiaomi and the US firm InterDigital.
In January, China’s Ministry of Commerce unveiled new rules that would punish global companies for complying with tightening US restrictions against Chinese businesses.
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