Feature: Australian woman defies online attacks after questioning rumors about Xinjiang

(Xinhua) 14:46, June 19, 2023

SYDNEY, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Living in the Australian city of Melbourne with her family, Maureen Huebel had never expected online attacks against her when she questioned the veracity of the so-called "Xinjiang genocide" reports on social media platforms.

Back in March 2021, Huebel openly expressed her doubts about the claims of genocide in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which were made by Adrian Zenz, a self-claimed scholar and a "China hand."

"What research work did Adrian Zenz do when staying in Xinjiang? This is part of the methodology statement that should be printed at the beginning of any research paper. Without the methodology statement you only have words, not scholarly research," Huebel tweeted.

She questioned Zenz's methodology and asked him for field research notes and published peer-reviewed journals.

Her words sparked a series of online offenses from Zenz: the German man questioned Huebel's academic background.

Huebel told News.com.au that after the exchange with Zenz her Twitter account was taken down for "impersonation," and was only restored after Monash University wrote to the social media platform at her request to confirm she had done research there.

In March this year, Huebel posted a tweet revealing her plan to travel to Xinjiang in 2024, study how Uygurs have contributed to Xinjiang's development, and look at their population growth.

Speaking of those personal attacks by the media, extremists, and online mobs, Huebel said that they just preferred her to be a bot and did not want her to be a genuine scholar, because they did not want her to contradict their narratives.

Huebel, whose maiden name is Maureen Ann Garwood, was born in Britain and earned two postgraduate diplomas from the University of Central Lancashire in 1977 and the University of Melbourne in 1999.

With a strong interest in visiting Xinjiang and exploring the region in a solid academic way, she stressed the importance of conducting first-hand field research.

"There is nothing like field research. You can't add to the body of knowledge without going there, talking to the people, seeing it firsthand, and speaking with confidence about it. So I need to go there," said Huebel.

"You need the literature that the universities have produced on the subject... And then you need to go out and see it in the flesh, and write in the flesh and feel it, and sense it," she said, adding that she plans to travel through different parts of Xinjiang and write about her experiences.

Huebel and her husband love traveling and have visited many countries. China has been on their list of destinations for many years.

"We like to get into the culture of where we're going. We don't want to stay at expensive hotels. We want to get in to learn about the people and how they live. And that's the sort of travel we've done and we want to do more of it," Huebel said.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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