Chinese Embassy in UK uses diplomat’s Shoah heroism to deflect Uyghur criticism
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Chinese Embassy in UK uses diplomat’s Shoah heroism to deflect Uyghur criticism

When challenged by a Jewish activist about persecution in Xinxiang, the embassy brought up the role of a Righteous wartime hero Ho Feng-Shan, who saved thousands from the Nazis

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

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)

The Embassy of China in the UK have attempted to reject claims of genocide against the Uyghur minority, by highlighting the record of a diplomat who saved Jews during the Shoah.

Daniel Confino wrote to the Chinese Embassy in February and stated he that as a “private citizen of the Jewish faith” he was “distressed to read reports of atrocities being committed” against the Muslim people.

He told them was writing as someone “whose mother escaped Nazi Germany.”

Confino, who runs a global business advice firm, said he had sent the letter without expecting any response.

But in a six-page reply the embassy highlighted the example of Ho Feng-Shan – who was China’s consul general at its consulate in Vienna, Austria from 1937 to 1940 – and who is celebrated for saving the lives of thousands of Jews from the Nazis.

But the letter failed to note that Feng-Shan had carried out his heroic actions in defiance of official orders.

Having visited China with his wife on their honeymoon Confino admitted being “disgusted” to find a country he had always admired now having to deny allegations of genocide.

Ho Feng-Shan (Wikipedia/Source yadvashem.org/Public domain)

But he said he made sure the letter also stressed how impressive he believed much of China’s 5000 year history to actually have been.

In the response to his letter, signed Embassy of China in the UK, Confino was told to remember the “noteworthy example” of the diplomat Feng-Shan as “a testament to the friendship between Chinese people and Jewish people.”

The Embassy’s letter suggested “the story” of his heroic efforts illustrated how the “Chinese people are beneficent and inclusive” and who “respect life and reject genocide.”

It added: “The Chinese city of Shanghai accepted tens of thousands of Jewish people giving them courage and strength to live on.”

Yad Vashem in Jerusalem has subsequently awarded Feng-Shan the title of ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ for his humanitarian courage.

Jewish News and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust are among those to have told his story again in recent months.

In his own letter Confino had written: “I have seen for myself the happy Jewish community in Nanjing. The very idea that so many people of the Muslim faith could be forced into indoctrination centres, used as slave labour, stripped of humanity, sterilised and the womenfolk systematically raped is so ridiculous and unworthy of the great traditions of China.

A Plaque at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum and Ohel Moishe Synagogue honouring Dr. Ho Feng Shan (Wikipedia/Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/hbarrison/5923772961/
Author: HBarrison/ Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode)

“The same China which has brought so much to all humanity. ”

Confino – whose also produces the popular podcast Homes, Fun, Wisdom, Talks With My Neighbour – told Jewish News he was “impressed they actually went to the trouble to respond to me.”

But he added: “But by citing the example of Ho Feng-Shan it is somewhat ironic that the letter failed to mention that he went against authority with his actions to help save Jews.

“I do believe that for the most part China does have an incredible history. It is such a terrible shame these allegations of genocide against the Uyghurs continue.

“The protestations seem somewhat hollow – and something systematic and brutal has been going on.”

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