150 MPs and peers back Jewish News Uyghur campaign
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150 MPs and peers back Jewish News Uyghur campaign

Petition, which will be handed to Downing Street next week, calls for sanctions over China's brutal treatment of its Muslim minority.

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

A muslim is praying before the demonstration in solidarity with the Uyghurs, started in Amsterdam, on December 29th, 2019. (Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto)
A muslim is praying before the demonstration in solidarity with the Uyghurs, started in Amsterdam, on December 29th, 2019. (Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto)

More than 150 parliamentarians have backed Jewish News’ call for the government to ratchet up the pressure on China over the plight of its Uyghur Muslims.

Together with Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani, and with the support of the World Uyghur Congress and human rights charity René Cassin, this newspaper wrote to MPs and peers last month urging them to push for sanctions and an independent investigation.

Around one million Muslims are understood to be held in camps in Xinjiang, a region in the country’s northwest, according to human rights activists. Rights groups have accused China of abuses including forced labour and sterilisation. Chinese authorities deny any mistreatment of the Uyghur and other Muslim minority groups, saying the detention camps offer vocational training.

Last month, criticising another letter from faith leaders, the Chinese Embassy said its contents were “sheer rumour and smear. We strongly deplore and oppose it”, a spokesperson for the embassy told Jewish News.

“The so-called genocide and forced sterilisation is nothing but a lie,” the spokesperson added, alongside a lengthy rejection of claims made about Xinjiang.

After more than 20 Jewish leaders backed our campaign, 152 senior MPs and peers from across the political spectrum added their names to the letter, which will be presented to Number 10 next week. They include Tories Tom Tugendhat and Damian Green, Labour’s Chris Bryant and Margaret Hodge, Liberal Democrat Layla Moran, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford and Caroline Lucas of the Greens. Supporters in the Lords include Lord Pickles and Baroness Deech. 

Communal backers include Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer, Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl and United Synagogue president Michael Goldstein, Union of Jewish Students president James Harris, Jewish Care chief executive officer Daniel Carmel-Brown, B’nai B’rith UK president Alan Miller and Mitzvah Day founder and chair Laura Marks.

Other supporters are Dr Edie Friedman, executive director of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, and Marc Cave, chief executive of the National Holocaust Centre in Nottingham.

The letter petitions MPs to push for sanctions on “state and non-state perpetrators” and for the proscription of all companies and individuals “facilitating these atrocities.”

The letter — which is backed by the Board of Deputies as well as leaders of the United Synagogue and the Reform, Liberal and Masorti movements — says: “After the ratification of the Genocide Convention back in 1948, the words ‘never again’ were a common political refrain. We have an urgent moral obligation to give meaning to these words. If we fail to act now, we will have shown them to be empty.” It describes alleged abuses as “a crime of unimaginable violence and demands us all to respond, as individuals, countries and as an international community”. “For the Jewish community, reports emerging from the region bring terrifying echoes of the Holocaust,” it reads.

Ghani said: “Britain is a beacon of hope to many in the world, and as a country that holds freedom, democracy and human rights above all else, we should be one of the staunchest critics of what is happening in Xinjiang. I am thankful to all MPs who have signed this letter and I’m pleased to see representations from so many different parties”.

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She said she was also “tremendously grateful to the Jewish community, who are making their voices heard and standing in solidarity with the Uyghurs. It is crucial that we stand together and use Great Britain’s moral and legal authority to defend them as they face destruction and humiliation at the hands of the Chinese government.”

The MP continued: “Free people everywhere are disgusted by what is happening to the Uyghurs – and our message must be that we will not tolerate it any longer. This country and our communities are united in our determination to raise awareness of what is happening, hold to account those responsible, and ensure that we are not a safe space for those who facilitate, profit from, or associate themselves with the perpetrators of these barbaric human rights abuses”.

 The Jewish News campaign coincides with the announcement of a parliamentary inquiry by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee, which will explore the extent to which UK businesses are exploiting the forced labour of Uyghur in the Xinjiang region of China.

Writing in The House magazine (a parliamentary publication) about the select committee inquiry, likely to take place in November, Nusrat Ghani says international brands such as “the Walt Disney Company, ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, and clothing giants such as Adidas, Nike and North Face, have questions to answer about their business involvements relating to the Chinese Communist Party”.

The letter and its signatories in full: 

Dear Prime Minister

A human rights crisis is unfolding in China, which has shocking echoes of the worst atrocities in living memory. At least one million Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic groups are being arbitrarily detained in ‘re-education camps’ in the Uyghur region of China, as part of a wide effort by the Chinese government to erase their culture and identity. Children have been separated from their families, women forcibly sterilised, countless thousands subjected to forced labour to provide goods sold on our high streets.

What the Chinese Communist Party is perpetrating in the Uyghur region is a crime of unimaginable violence and demands us all to respond, as individuals, countries and as an international community. For the Jewish community, some of the reports emerging from
the region bring terrifying echoes of the Holocaust.

We must not and we will not turn a blind eye. We therefore pledge to campaign for the UK government:

  • To push for an urgent, independent United Nations investigation into atrocities  carried out against Muslim minorities in China
  • To work urgently towards a legal recognition of the crimes under way – independently from the UN if necessary
  • To pursue all possible methods to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for  its egregious human rights abuses
  • To add state and non-state perpetrators to the UK ‘Magnitsky’ sanctions list
  • To proscribe companies and institutions which are facilitating these atrocities

After the ratification of the Genocide Convention the words “never again” were a common political refrain. We have an urgent moral obligation to give meaning to these words. If we fail to act now, we will have shown them to be empty. 

Signed:

  • Richard Ferrer, Jewish News
  • Mia Hasenson-Gross, Rene Cassin
  • Marie van der Zyl, Board of Deputies of British Jews
  • Michael Goldstein, United Synagogue
  • Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Movement for Reform Judaism
  • Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Liberal Judaism
  • Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Masorti Judaism
  • James Harris, Union of Jewish Students
  • Michael Newman, Association of Jewish Refugees
  • Marc Cave, National Holocaust Centre
  • Daniel Carmel-Brown, Jewish Care
  • Laura Marks, Mitzvah Day
  • Imi Wise, Federation of Zionist Youth
  • Rosa Slater, Liberal Jewish Youth-Netzer
  • Rafi Cohen, Bnei Akiva
  • Judy Silkoff, Association of Jewish Women and Organisations
  • Dr Edie Friedman,The Jewish Council for Racial Equality
  • Alan Miller, B’nai B’rith UK
  • Nusrat Ghani MP, Conservative
  • Tim Loughton MP, Conservative
  • Christian Wakeford MP, Conservative
  • Rob Roberts MP, Conservative
  • Steve Baker MP, Conservative
  • Robert Largan MP, Conservative
  • Alison Thewliss MP, SNP
  • Kate Osamor MP, Labour
  • Rt Hon Sir Desmond Swayne TD MP, Conservative
  • James Gray MP, Conservative
  • Sir Peter Bottomley MP, Conservative
  • Owen Thompson MP, SNP
  • Virendra Sharma MP, Labour
  • Stuart McDonald MP, SNP
  • Karen Green MP, Labour
  • Alyn Smith MP, SNP
  • Tom Randall MP, Conservative
  • Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrats
  • Gareth Bacon MP, Conservative
  • Chris Clarkson MP, Conservative
  • Chris Bryant MP, Labour
  • Bob Blackman MP, Conservative
  • Alan Brown MP, SNP
  • Pauline Latham MP, Conservative
  • Dr Philippa Whitford MP, SNP
  • Neil Gray MP, SNP
  • Daisy Cooper MP, Liberal Democrats
  • Paul Girvan MP, DUP
  • Rt Hon Liz Saville-Roberts MP, Plaid Cymru
  • Nicola Richards MP, Conservative
  • Ben Lake MP, Plaid Cymru
  • Drew Hendry MP, SNP
  • Crispin Blunt MP, Conservative
  • Neale Hanvey MP, SNP
  • Caroline Ansell MP, Conservative
  • Tom Tugendhat MBE MP, Conservative
  • Andrew Rosindell MP, Conservative
  • Alicia Kearns MP, Conservative
  • Jonathan Gullis MP, Conservative
  • Andrew Lewer MP, Conservative
  • Patricia Gibson MP, SNP
  • Mohammad Yasin MP, Labour
  • Shabana Mahmood MP, Labour
  • Layla Moran MP, Liberal Democrats
  • Rt Hon Sammy Wilson MP, DUP
  • Ben Everitt MP, Conservative
  • Catherine McKinnell MP, Labour
  • Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP, Conservative
  • Robbie Moore MP, Conservative
  • Anne McLaughlin MP, SNP
  • Kieran Mullan MP, Conservative
  • Rt Hon Ian Blackford MP, SNP, leader of the SNP in the House of Commons
  • Anthony Mangall MP, Conservative
  • Sarah Champion MP, Labour
  • Christian Wakeford MP, Conservative
  • Alan Brown MP, SNP
  • Richard Thomson MP, SNP
  • Chris Law MP, SNP
  • Margaret Ferrier MP, SNP
  • John Nicholson MP, SNP
  • Douglas Chapman MP, SNP
  • Deidre Brock MP, SNP
  • Angus MacNeil MP, SNP
  • Brendan O’Hara MP, SNP
  • Hannah Barden MP, SNP
  • Stewart McDonald MP, SNP
  • Rosie Cooper MP, Labour
  • Michael Fabricant MP, Conservative
  • Baroness Altmann, Conservative
  • Baroness Lister of Burtersett, Labour
  • Baroness Nicholson of Winterborne, Conservative
  • Baroness Deech, crossbench
  • Lord McInnes of Kilwinning, Conservative
  • Baroness Jolly, Liberal Democrats
  • Lord Alton of Liverpool, Liberal Democrats
  • Lord Pickles, Conservative
  • Lord Balfe, Conservative
  • Kirsten Oswald MP, SNP
  • Dr James Davies MP, Conservative
  • Baroness Neuberger, Crossbench
  • Baroness Whittaker, Labour
  • Baroness Eaton, Conservative
  • Lord Hylton, Crossbench
  • Martyn Day MP, SNP
  • Stephen Flynn MP, SNP
  • Carol Monaghan MP, SNP
  • David Linden MP, SNP
  • Marion Fellows MP, SNP
  • Patrick Grady MP, SNP
  • Kenny MacAskill MP, SNP
  • Vivien Lichtenstein, Jewish Greens
  • Rt Hon Alistair Carmichael MP, Liberal Democrats
  • Christine Jardine MP, Liberal Democrats
  • Caroline Lucas MP, Greens
  • Mick Whitley MP, Labour
  • Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, Greens
  • Paul Bristow MP, Conservative
  • Matthew Offord MP, Conservative
  • Fleur Anderson MP, Labour, co-chair of the APPG for the Prevention of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity
  • Rt Hon Damian Green MP, Conservative, chairman of the One Nation Conservatives caucus
  • Siobhain McDonagh MP, Labour
  • Jamie Stone MP, Liberal Democrats
  • Rt Hon Dame Cheryl Gillan DBE MP, 
  • Gordon Henderson MP, Conservative
  • Sally-Ann Hart MP, Conservative
  • Graham Stringer MP, Labour
  • Dr Stephen Farry MP, Alliance
  • David Warburton FRSA MP, Conservative
  • Elliot Colburn MP, Conservative
  • Julian Knight MP, Conservative, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee
  • Rupa Huq MP, Labour
  • Andrew Selous MP, Conservative
  • Dr Neil Hudson MP FRCVS, Conservative
  • Barry Gardiner MP, Labour
  • Rt Hon Sir George Howarth MP, Labour
  • Rt Hon Margaret Hodge DBE MP, Labour, parliamentary chair of the Jewish Labour Movement
  • Imran Ahmad Khan MP, Conservative
  • Sarah Olney MP, Liberal Democrats

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