Nineteen of the UK’s most senior rabbis have joined dozens of community leaders of various faiths and none in calling for “justice” for China’s Uyghur Muslims.
Around one million Muslims are believed to have been detained in camps in Xinjiang, a region in the country’s northwest, according to human rights activists.
Rights groups have accused China of human abuses including forced labour and sterilisation.
But Chinese authorities deny any mistreatment of the Uyghur and other Muslim minority groups, saying the detention camps offer vocational training.
A letter highlighting the plight of the Uyghur has now gathered 76 signatures from faith and humanist leaders – including a London-based representative for the Dalai Lama.
Senior rabbis Joseph Dweck (S&P Sephardi community), Laura Janner Klausner (Reform) and Jonathan Wittenberg (Masorti) are among the letter signatories.
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Others include Muswell Hill United Synagogue rabbi David Mason, the crossbench peer Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger, Golders Green Synagogue’s Senior Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski and Rabbi Herschel Gluck, who chairs Stamford Hill’s Shomrim volunteer safety group.
“We have seen many persecutions and mass atrocities. These need our attention. But there is one that, if allowed to continue with impunity, calls into question most seriously the willingness of the international community to defend universal human rights for everyone – the plight of the Uyghur,” the statement says.
It continues: “After the Holocaust, the world said ‘Never Again.’ Today, we repeat those words ‘Never Again’, all over again.
“We make a simple call for justice, to investigate these crimes, hold those responsible to account and establish a path towards the restoration of human dignity.”
In a statement to Jewish News, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy said the contents of the letter were “sheer rumour and smear. We strongly deplore and oppose it.”
“The so called genocide and forced sterilisation is nothing but a lie,” the spokesperson added, alongside a lengthy rejection of claims made about Xinjiang.
The Board of Deputies said in a statement that it welcomed the release of the letter.
The Jewish umbrella group urged China last month to “release the Uyghur people and other minorities from all ethnic and religious oppression”.
“Nobody could watch [Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming’s recent appearance on the Andrew Marr show] and fail to notice the similarities between what is alleged to be happening in the People’s Republic of China today and what happened in Nazi Germany 75 years ago,” said its president Marie van der Zyl.