A senior member of an influential parliamentary committee on China this week spoke of “distressing echoes” for Jews in China’s “brutal suppression” of its Uyghur minority after 13 tonnes of human hair was found on a US-bound ship.
It follows a huge US Customs seizure of human hair products believed to have been taken from Muslim Uyghurs, more than a million of whom have been detained in vast indoctrination camps in China’s western Xinjiang province.
US Customs and Border Protection assistant commissioner Brenda Smith said the production of the weaves and other hair products found onboard the ship “constitutes a very serious human rights violation”.
The news, together with the implication that hair is being forcibly removed from thousands of prisoners then sold, has horrified UK Jewish groups – including the Board of Deputies, Rene Cassin and the Jewish Council for Racial Equality – with some citing its “chilling and obvious resonances” with the Holocaust.
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Alistair Carmichael MP, vice-chair (human rights) of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on China, said states around the world “need to hold the Chinese Government to account for their brutal suppression of the Uyghurs”, which is understood to be on an industrial scale, comprising 1,200 camps.
“It is never a good idea to compare any contemporary incident to the Holocaust,” said Carmichael. “My fundamental rule is that nothing can be compared to the Holocaust. I know, however, that this report has many distressing echoes for those who know the history of that most dreadful episode.
“Events in Srebrenica and Rwanda in recent decades should teach us that genocide can still happen and that no one is safe unless everyone guards against it.”
Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat and senior MP who served as Secretary of State for Scotland under the coalition government, has supported Israeli-Palestinian peace-building programmes and in 2018 spent a day with London’s Jewish community to better understand the issue of antisemitism.
It is never a good idea to compare any contemporary incident to the Holocaust. My fundamental rule is that nothing can be compared to the Holocaust. I know, however, that this report has many distressing echoes for those who know the history of that most dreadful episode
Mia Hasenson-Gross, director of René Cassin, said: “A trade in forcibly removed human hair has chilling and obvious resonances. This is yet another terrible example of the systematic de-humanisation of the Uyghur Muslims by the Chinese state.”
She said the Uyghurs’ suppression already includes mass internment, “re-education,” slave labour, forced sterilisation, organ-farming and other abuses.
“The Chinese Communist Party is engaged in genocide in Xinjiang, attempting to wipe out an entire culture, language and way of life,” she said. “It is time for the world to take a stand against such inhumanity. There can be no ‘business as usual’ with a government that abuses its own citizens on such a scale.”
Dr Edie Friedman, director of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE), said the report “naturally rings alarm bells for those concerned with human rights and will arouse particular emotions for Jewish people given the Nazi resonances”.
She added: “The international community must call for a fully independent inquiry into this episode.”
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Board of Deputies’ vice president Edwin Shuker said the news was “further evidence of the systematic persecution of the Uyghur minority in China”, adding: “We ask that the Government uses its position at the UN to raise these matters on the international stage, and with the Chinese government.”