The only moral option we have is to defend the Uighur people from the Chinese state

It's time for the West to stand up to all those who violate basic human rights, as the Uighur Muslims face wipe out in Xinjiang

Read my article for the Telegraph below 👇🏾

Internment camps and mass incarceration of a religious and ethnic minority was featured on the front page of a national Jewish newspaper this week. The news item was not directly about what happened to Jews in Europe in the 1940s but rather what is happening now, today, this very week, to the Uighur Muslims in China.

Almost two million people are being held in internment camps within Xinjiang Province, China but, in another theme that echos the past, it being met with a terrible dose of indifference in most of the Western world. In the United Kingdom, for example, the Magnitsky sanctions announced last week by the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, were a landmark moment for human rights. 

But there was an appalling absence of any mention of the violations happening in Xinjiang. This is despite the overwhelming evidence that the Chinese regime has been engaging in nothing less than State-sponsored ethnic cleansing of the Uighurs.

The UK signed an unprecedented joint statement as part of the UN Human Rights Council expressing concern about credible reports of arbitrary detention, as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions but this seems to have been forgotten in this week’s sanctions. Twelve UN human rights experts published an extensive critique of China’s misuse of terrorism legislation, highlighting multiple serious human rights violations, while 50 UN special rapporteurs denounced the dictatorship's collective repression and human rights abuses. The US State Department has also documented the Chinese Communist Party’s widespread human rights abuses against the Uighur people.

Xinjiang’s government has itself officially recognised the use of camps too, but perversely, boasting of them as something to be proud of. Xinjiang’s Communist Party leader, Chen Quanguo, has repeatedly called on officials to "round up everyone who should be rounded up," according to a New York Times report of 2019. Detainees who have since fled China have described how they were forced to pledge their loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party, renounce their religion, and were subject to torture and sleep deprivation during interrogations.

Women have shared stories of sexual abuse, with some reporting that they were forced to undergo abortions, have contraceptive devices implanted, or be fully sterilised. Indeed, population growth rates in the Uighur heartland plummeted by 84 per cent between 2015 and 2018. At least half a million of the remaining Uighur children have been separated from their families and are being raised by the regime at State-run orphanages.

At a time when we in the West are facing up to our own history, whether to the horrors of anti-Semitism or to the consequences of racial oppression, we seem ready to overlook what is happening in the present. There is currently a relentless campaign of genocide and re-education taking place in Xinjiang that we must use our energy to put a stop to. Now.

This means holding ourselves accountable as well. Only recently, there were reports of human hair arriving at the US border – hair forcibly taken from Uighur people kept in camps. Just this week, a video re-emerged on social media, showing men and women blindfolded and loaded on to trains in Xinjiang. Doesn't this show that inaction is not an option?

The US has made great progress with the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act and Global Magnistky Act – as it has chosen to sanction Chinese officials responsible for these crimes. And while the Uighur people may be out of sight and out of mind for some, we also have a Magnitsky sanctions regime in place – it's time for us to apply it to all those who violate basic human rights.  

When asked about designations against Chinese officials, the Foreign Secretary said that he would not 'pre-empt or prejudge' further decisions down the track, but that he is already working on the potential 'next wave' and will proceed 'based on evidence'. Many of us wished we would never witness such atrocities again, but we cannot pick and choose which events to react to.

There is no other moral option – we must defend the Uighur people as they face destruction at the hands of the Chinese state. We, as prominent members of the Muslim and Jewish communities, urge the Foreign Secretary to use the United Kingdom’s moral and legal authority to proceed quickly on the basis of the overwhelming evidence in Xinjiang.

The original article can be read here.