TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — U.S. company Kodak Eastman took down an Instagram image linked to a critic of China’s ongoing atrocities in Xinjiang on Tuesday (July 20), issuing an apology and separately promising on Chinese social media to keep itself “in check,” according to reports.
Kodak, founded in 1888 in Rochester, New York, is a former heavyweight of analog photography that now specializes in other services after a tumultuous transition to the digital era. Recently, the company published photos on Instagram from "Dust," a new book by French photographer Patrick Wack about his travels in Xinjiang from 2016 to 2020.
On Wack’s own Instagram account, he had in blunt terms addressed the enormity of the human rights abuses in Xinjiang, where over 1 million Uyghur Muslims are estimated to have been held in concentration camps, with credible reports of forced sterilization, forced labor, and systemic rape continuing to emerge.
“In recent years, the region has been at the centre of an international outcry following the mass incarceration of its Uyghur population and other Muslim minorities,” Wack’s post read. “This body of work captures a visual narrative of the region and is a testimony to its abrupt descent into an Orwellian dystopia.”
Following a backlash on Chinese social media, Kodak took the photos down and issued an apology to China.
“Content from the photographer Patrick Wack was recently posted on this Instagram page. The content of the post was provided by the photographer and was not authored by Kodak,” the company said, adding that its Instagram page was not supposed to be a political platform. The statement went on to emphasize that the views were not those of Kodak and apologized for any “misunderstanding or offense.”
The company issued a separate statement on Chinese social media app WeChat, writing, “We will continue to respect the Chinese government and the Chinese law,” and “We will keep ourselves in check and correct ourselves, taking this as an example of the need for caution.”
Wack, who lived in China for 11 years but now lives in Berlin, said his interlocutor from Kodak had apologized to him. He laid the blame for the kowtowing at the feet of upper management and remarked on the irony of Kodak behaving this way, given the role it has played over the years in documenting history, according to The New York Times.
“So for them, one of the main actors historically in photography, to say they don’t want to be political is what’s upsetting so many people,” he told the newspaper.