Senior MPs and activists have spoken of the UK’s urgent need to take a political stand against the genocide being inflicted on Uyghur Muslims in China.
Thursday evening’s appeal at an emergency meeting hosted by the Board of Deputies came ahead of a vote in the House of Commons next week, where MPs will decide on whether the UK amends a bill to prevent bilateral trade deals with any country it deems to be carrying out a genocide.
The audience, watching from a live stream, heard the urgent addresses from MPs including the Rt Hon Sir Ian Duncan Smith, Nusrat Ghani and Lisa Nandy and the testimony of World Uyghur Congress representative Rahima Mahmut, who all spoke of the atrocities faced by the Uyghurs at the hands of the Chinese authorities.
Drawing similarities with the situation in Xinjiang to the Shoah, former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith said: “The Uyghurs, it was said by the Chinese authorities have no rights. This reminds of the way the Jews were treated in the 1940s as termed as Untermensch – people with no humanity so what you did to them didn’t matter.”
Shadow Foreign Secretary, Labour MP Lisa Nandy, also drew comparisons. She told the audience how Marie van der Zyl had previously “laid out the similarities between what happened in Nazi Germany and what is happening here… the beards of religious men being trimmed, the women being sterilised, the grim spectre of concentration camps….It would not be in keeping with the UK’s tradition of standing up to mass atrocities to turn away now.“
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.
Last year, Jewish News, together with Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani, and with the support of the World Uyghur Congress and human rights charity René Cassin, petitioned MPs and peers, urging them to push for sanctions and an independent investigation. More the 150 backed our call.
Rahima Mahmut, a Uyghur spokesperson pleaded with the meeting to support the amendment. “What is happening is not a secret anymore. By telling my story I am putting my loved ones at great risk but this is the least we can do,” she said.
Nusrat Ghani, MP, said that if there were ever “any maker of genocide”, it is that there has been an “85 per cent drop in birth rates of Uyghur women” which she described as a ‘vile crime.’
- OPINION: NUS GHANI MP: We can halt the Uyghur genocide by ending business as usual
- OPINION: Benedict Rogers: Plight of the Uyghurs reflects pattern of oppression in China
She warned the audience of the importance of doing our part here in the UK because “we are complicit in the genocide because the products produced by the slavery ends up here. It’s not a situation where genocide took place somewhere else and did not impact us at all. Unfortunately, it is impacting us right here right now.”
Appealing to fellow MPs, who on Tuesday have the chance to vote on the bill – which was passed by the House of Lords in December, but must now return to the House of Commons for MPs to vote on – Sir Duncan Smith said that this is not a political issue, but a moral one.
“The government should not see this is terms of party politics but in terms of right and wrong. It’s a very simple choice but a complex decision….If we in the mother of parliament do not speak for those who are benighted and trashed by authorities then frankly I don’t think we deserve to be in that mother of parliament.”
Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat, told the meeting: “This is an opportunity to make the changes we need to make sure that goods that come from slave states and slave production are stopped long before they get to our borders.
“This an opportunity for us to make a stand and I hope the Government listens.”
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