Journalist Vicky Xu Says CCP Targeting Her Online for Exposing Forced Labor in China

Journalist Vicky Xu Says CCP Targeting Her Online for Exposing Forced Labor in China
A man types on a computer keyboard. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)
Caden Pearson

Vicky Xu, a Chinese researcher and journalist in Australia known for her reporting on the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China's Xinjiang region, says agents acting on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) released a video online about her in an attempt to smear her reputation.

Xu hasn't been accepting media interview requests but has taken to Twitter on multiple occasions recently to set the record straight and expose the CCP's online disinformation efforts.

"It seems some are under the impression that there exists a fake sex tape of me made by the Chinese government," she wrote on April 6.

"This is false, as far as I’m aware anyway. What they made was a YouTube video that told fictional stories about my [ex-boyfriends], now taken down. What a time to be alive."

She continued, switching to Chinese to tell Chinese netizens not to search for the video. "This film does not exist. Why don't you reflect on yourselves?" she wrote.

"Those who support the party-state, why do you still want to watch me, a traitor reporter's film? If you don't support the party-state, then you shouldn't follow the attack on a female reporter even more. You people, pshaw."

In referring to herself as a "traitor," Xu sardonically borrowed a CCP talking point used to discredit her authority among Chinese internet users.

The video in question could not be found on YouTube but exists on the Chinese video platform Bilibili.

Once an enthusiastic supporter of the Chinese regime until she gained a different perspective after moving to Australia, Xu was instrumental in exposing its state-sponsored crimes against Uyghur Muslims in Mainland China through her reporting.

For her efforts, the CCP has retaliated against Xu by harassing, intimidating, and detaining her family back in China, she said.

In 2019, when Xu was working for the New York Times in Sydney, she reported on a case involving the detention in a brainwashing centre of two Uyghurs.

"We asked the Chinese side to comment, and to our surprise, once the telegram was sent out, they were quickly released under international pressure," she wrote on Twitter on April 1.

"After this article (was published), my family and friends in China began to be harassed and intimidated. My Uyghur friends told me at the time, 'You've become like us now.'"

In March 2020, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute published a report titled "Uyghurs for Sale," which pointed out Uyghur Muslims' forced labour was happening under the banner of aid work across Mainland China.

The report noted that 82 well-known brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors benefit directly from forced labour, "including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony, and Volkswagen."

But Xu says every person in the world is benefitting from forced labour in Mainland China.

"The article points out the relationship between every ordinary person in the world and the Uyghur human rights crisis: every person is likely to be wearing the products of forced labor," Xu said.

"I barely bought any new clothes or phones this year because I felt guilty when I went into the mall and saw the signs that I had written about," she added.

The report was cited by media outlets worldwide, prompting China's Ministry of State Security (MSS)—an organisation equivalent to ASIO or the CIA—to begin acting like "a deranged stalky pathetic" ex-boyfriend, she said.

"At the same time, the Ministry of State Security began an increasingly alarming coercion against me and those around me, with people close to me being detained, interrogated, harassed, and isolated inside China," Xu said.

"In late 2020, the Ministry of State Security people used the name of detective 'Thomas' to spread pornography-like stories on YouTube in broken machine-translated English. I was [expletive]-shamed in a pornographic 'sex life' exposé."

Xu said the MSS had been thoroughly snooping through her life to dig up dirt.

"To figure out every detail of my life, [including] my exes, my medical history, my friends, my hobbies and flaws, they have resorted to detention and interrogation of my loves ones, hacking, impersonation, video production of a fantasy version of my sex life, illegal botnets to spread those videos, and today a ton of WeChat articles calling me a "female demon," she wrote on Twitter on March 29.
Xu said this has caused "pain and heartbreak" for herself and those around her, but she said she is getting used to it. She said she had been called many slurs online, from "West-worshipping [expletive]" to "race traitor," to "female demon" who "has sex simultaneously with 15 men and doesn't pay."
Xu spoke up on March 29 after her name began trending on the Chinese social media site Weibo, attracting 1.7 million clicks. Eventually, Weibo closed her account.
"I'm tweeting now because today is one of the worst days, and friends are starting to get worried," she wrote.
"It's certainly bad, but it's been worse for many others. Living in relative physical safety in Australia, I remind myself to keep writing and reporting, at the very least. Today I've been doing that, and I'll do that tomorrow and the day after."

On April 6, she said the CCP is trying to drown her "with spit," referring to the overwhelmingly negative comments made against her by Chinese internet users who have been stirred to anger by the CCP's efforts to malign her.

"Honestly, sometimes it sucks to live this life, but I’d watch the [expletive] out of this show, and like, drown me however you like. I’ve definitely gotten better at swimming after living in Australia. I’d totally surf on your spit waves anytime. Keep em coming," she said.