Voice of the Jewish News: Realpolitik must not permit this genocide
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Voice of the Jewish News: Realpolitik must not permit this genocide

This week's editorial says Britain must go further in protecting Uyghur Muslims against Chinese persecution, after the defeat of the Genocide Amendment to the Trade Bill

Jewish News
A member of the Muslim Uighur minority holds a child in her arms as she demonstrates in front of the Chinese consulate on December 30, 2020, in Istanbul,  (Photo by BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images)
A member of the Muslim Uighur minority holds a child in her arms as she demonstrates in front of the Chinese consulate on December 30, 2020, in Istanbul, (Photo by BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images)

This week, for only the second time, Jewish News published a special front page in addition to the weekly newspaper, urging MPs to vote on a crucial amendment to the Trade Bill. Passed by the House of Lords last month with a majority of 287 to 181, this amendment would have given the courts the power effectively to block trade deals with countries dealing in genocide.

Why did this issue move us to publish midweek? Why does this issue move us as a community? Because the treatment being meted out against the Uyghur Muslim community in China’s western Xinjiang province is a systematic genocide with chilling echoes of the darkest chapter of our own history. Comments from the Board of Deputies this week make that clear. Stephen Smith, who heads Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation and serves as UNESCO’s chair on genocide education, is in no doubt that we are witnessing genocide. This week Mike Pompeo, while still US secretary of state, accused China of a “crime against humanity”.

Mounting testimonies tell of mass incarcerations of more than one million people, of forced labour and sterilisation, of parents separated from children, of a concerted attempt by President Xi Jinping to ensure this generation of Uyghur Muslims is the last.

Jewish News’ special front page ahead of the trade bill vote

Sadly, after a debate in the Commons that stretched through Tuesday afternoon and featured powerful words from MPs including Nus Ghani, Tom Tugendhat, Iain Duncan Smith and Layla Moran, the amendment was marginally defeated, 319 to 308, leaving the government’s path to a multi-billion-pound post-Brexit trade deal with Beijing unencumbered by humanitarian scrutiny. The amendment did, however, gain enough support to secure another vote, as early as next week. This is just the start.

The foreign secretary’s announcement of fines for firms linked to slave labour is, of course, welcome but the UK needed to go much further. It will be the job of those MPs who refused to support the amendment to the Trade Bill to explain to future generations why they did not make the government stand up to China when this century’s worst genocide is taught to those not yet born, which it surely will be. Words mean nothing if tariffs trump ‘never again’. There is no realpolitik when it comes to genocide.

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