Voice of the Jewish News: The Chief Rabbi and China

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Voice of the Jewish News: The Chief Rabbi and China

This week's Jewish News editorial reflects on the powerful intervention by Ephraim Mirvis over the persecution of Uyghur Muslims

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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)

Some campaigns need to be ‘sold’. Some grievances need to be shouted. Some revulsion needs sifting between agenda-led and genuine. Once in a blue moon, all we need is knowledge.

The more we learn about the Chinese state’s persecution of its Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, the more aggrieved, revolted, and incensed we feel. In living memory of the Holocaust, a people are being “erased”.

This week, that burning, growing Jewish revulsion was voiced by the one person whose intervention will make a real difference – the Chief Rabbi. In no small act of courage, he catapulted this from the corridors to the concert hall. Private conversations were going nowhere, we understand, so he went nuclear.

There is no ‘other side’ to it. This week and last, Jewish News has profiled two of the few incomparably brave witnesses to the plight of the Uyghurs at the hands of ethnic Han Chinese authorities. Their stories shock.

The accusations: Dozens of vast camps, through which millions are taken and many never emerge, housing 60 per cell, so cramped that they cannot sleep. No natural light, shorn hair, names removed, hearing screams 24/7 from the basement, where rape is used on both men and women. Forced sterilisation, ‘re-education’ to rid them of both identity and hope, this is the slow-burn killing of a people’s spirit.

What to do against the mighty China? As the Chief Rabbi says, the same was asked about the mighty apartheid regime in South Africa, about the mighty Soviets’ refusal to let Soviet Jews leave, about the entrenched sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland. In all cases, change was brought by ordinary people.

We can do plenty. We can pressure MPs and companies. We can protest. And we can learn about what we buy and where it comes from, after documents this week showed that China uses hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs for hard labour. All we needed was knowledge. Now we have it.

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