Fury as Chinese envoy attends New York shul’s Shoah memorial event

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Fury as Chinese envoy attends New York shul’s Shoah memorial event

President of the European Uyghur Institute says invitation extended to Zhang Jun to a Holocaust remembrance ceremony was 'like inviting Nazi representatives'

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Zhang Jun, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations speaks during a Security Council meeting at the United Nations   (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
Zhang Jun, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations speaks during a Security Council meeting at the United Nations (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

A furious row has broken out after the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, tweeted proudly of his participation in a Holocaust memorial event at one of New York’s most important synagogues, Park East in Manhattan.

The event, held on Monday, featured the secretary-general of the UN, Antonio Guterres and the synagogue’s long-time rabbi, Arthur Schneier. Also on the invitation, to mark the 76th anniversary of the libration of Auschwitz, were the synagogue’s cantors and its choir, together with “the participation of the diplomatic corps”.

After the event, Mr Zhang tweeted that he was “honoured” to join the UN Secretary-General, adding: “History can’t be denied, distorted or forgotten. The great truth of history tells us humanity will prevail, justice will prevail and peace will prevail”.

But his participation, in light of global criticism of the Chinese government for its treatment of the Uyghur community, was greeted with regret and dismay by Uyghur and Jewish leaders.

Zhang Jun’s tweet

Dr Dilnur Reyhan, president of the European Uyghur Institute, responded to the ambassador’s post with a furious tweet in French, in which she declared that inviting China to a Shoah commemoration was “like inviting Nazi representatives”. It was, she said, “a scandal, a moral failing, a historic failing, and above all an insult to the victims of the Shoah. The Jews stand alongside the Uyghurs, who are victims of a Chinese neo-Nazi genocide”.

New York’s Park East synagogue (Wikipedia/ Author Americasroof /Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0))

She later tweeted: “How can a representative of a new Nazi regime, which is committing a genocide against Uyghurs, take a seat in the International Holocaust Remembrance event?”

Rahima Mahmut, UK project director of the World Uyghur Congress, who was due to speak at Britain’s Holocaust Memorial Day event on Wednesday, told Jewish News: “Holocaust Memorial Day is our chance to commemorate those who were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. We take the time to remember and to learn. It is deeply offensive that perpetrators of genocide should be invited to take part in such ceremonies. Their participation is disingenuous and insulting. The appropriation of the six million Jewish men, women and children to conceal your perpetration of a genocide should be deplored in the strongest possible terms. As the shadows of the Holocaust loom over the persecution of the Uyghurs, Holocaust Memorial Day should be a day of robust and unrelenting opposition to this criminal regime”.

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Park East Synagogue did not respond to numerous requests for clarification as to how the Chinese ambassador was able to take part in the memorial event. A number of groups which support the Uyghur communities in China posted questions on the synagogue’s Instagram account, but these comments were reported to have been deleted.

Board of Deputies president, Marie van der Zyl, said: “While we welcome the support of all nations for the commemoration of the Holocaust, the lesson of the Shoah is not only a history lesson. It is also a lesson for today as well. We would urge the Chinese government to take this opportunity to reflect on the evils done in past — and step back from the precipice of committing the sorts of atrocities that we continue to commemorate on Holocaust Memorial Day.”

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