China's ambassador to the U.K., Liu Xiaoming, struggled on Sunday to explain drone footage from the region of Xinjiang that appears to show prisoners with shaved heads shackled, blindfolded and being led to trains.

Why it matters: The video, which first appeared in October 2019 but resurfaced and went viral recently, has prompted fresh scrutiny of the human rights abuses China is carrying out against Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities.

  • Since 2017, China's government has detained an estimated 1 million–2 million Uighurs in "re-education camps" that it claims are being used to root out extremism.
  • Last month, AP reported that China is engaging in a sweeping campaign of forced birth control and sterilization on Uighurs and other minorities that is "far more widespread and systematic" than was previously known — efforts that some experts have described as "demographic genocide."

What he's saying: Liu, who was confronted with the video by BBC talk show host Andrew Marr, defended Xinjiang as the "most beautiful place" and claimed he did not know where the footage came from. "Sometimes you have a transfer of prisoners," he said.

  • Liu said there has been "no so-called restriction of the population" in the region, despite research that shows birth rates in Xinjiang fell by 24% last year alone, compared to 4.2% nationwide.
  • “Uighur people enjoy peaceful, harmonious coexistence with other ethnic groups of people,” he claimed.

The other side: U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said later on the show that while "genocide" is "such a specific definition you have to be very careful" with, it's clear there are "gross, egregious human rights abuses going on" in Xinjiang.

“The reports of the human aspects of it, from forced sterilization to the re-education camps, are reminiscent of something we have not seen for a long, long time. And this is from a leading member of the international community, who wants to be taken seriously, and whom we want a positive relationship. But we cannot see behavior like that and not call it out, albeit with our partners and in the right way.”
— Dominic Raab

Go deeper: U.S. sanctions Chinese officials over Uighur human rights abuses

Go deeper

The American blog pushing Xinjiang denialism

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A website called The Grayzone has made a name for itself by denying China's campaign of cultural and demographic genocide in Xinjiang.

Why it matters: Chinese government officials and state media outlets are citing The Grayzone and its contributors with growing frequency as Beijing attempts to cast doubt on accusations of atrocities in its far Northwest region.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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  5. States: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to drop lawsuit over Atlanta's mask mandate.
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Trump says he intends to give RNC speech on White House lawn

President Trump speaking to reporters on South Lawn in July. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump told the New York Post on Thursday that he plans to deliver his Republican National Convention speech from the White House lawn, despite bipartisan criticism of the optics and legality of the location.

Why it matters: Previous presidents avoided blurring staged campaign-style events — like party conventions — with official business of governing on the White House premises, per Politico.