How the treatment of the Uyghur echoes down the years

How the treatment of the Uyghur echoes down the years

For the JN July 2020

A horrifying description of the sophisticated use of technology, used by the Chinese to abuse and exploit its Uyghur minority, has been given by the UK-based spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress, Rahima Mahmut.

Speaking at a specially convened panel called Chilling Echoes, co-hosted by the Jewish News and the René Cassin human rights group, Ms Mahmut, who left China 20 years ago, said that persecution of the Uyghur Muslims had evolved into a “more genocidal policy.”

From April 2017 onwards, she said, there had been mass arrests and police would arrive, place black hoods on Uyghurs, handcuff them and take them away.

But she said it was almost impossible to get proper feedback as to what was happening currently, because of the close monitoring of Uyghur families. “We learned that anyone who receives a foreign call, whether on their landline or their mobile phone, police will arrive in five or 10 minutes. And voice recognition technology — the Chinese have recorded the voice of all dissidents, so they have a very sophisticated hi-tech surveillance in place”.

Joining her on the panel, chaired by Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer, were Mia Hasenson-Gross of René Cassin, writer and broadcaster Maajid Nawaz, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s Olivia Marks-Woldman, and the Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani.

Maajid Nawaz recently went on a hunger strike in order to get the issue of the Uyghurs discussed in Parliament. His petition successfully reached more than the 100,000 signatures necessary to trigger a debate. Now, he said, he was urging people to demonstrate outside the big sports supply companies, such as Nike.

“Everyone knows, it is an open secret, that we are broadly dependent on enslaved labour. If we do not seize this moment to protest, we become complicit”. He said that the Uyghur were not just being abused, but being exploited. Nike and other companies are thought to source most of their sports shoes from Chinese forced labour camps, populated by captured Uyghur Muslims who have been separated from their children.

Mr Nawaz predicted: “If Nike cave in, all the companies will follow”, and called on people to “put your money somewhere else”.

MP Nasrat Ghani, who has raised the abuse of the Uyghur repeatedly in Parliament, referred to the controversial appearance of the Chinese ambassador to Britain on the Andrew Marr show last week, in which he categorically denied what was happening to the Uyghurs, despite being shown video footage of blindfolded men being herded onto trains. In fact, the MP said, the ambassador’s very denials had “helped our argument”.

There were, she said, an estimated two million people in the camps, and around half a million children separated from their parents. Women — who were subjected to horrifying abuse such as rape and forced abortions — “are given a choice, to be sterilised or go to a camp”.

Ms Ghani said she wanted the UK to set up its own tribunal — in alliance with other western nations — to monitor China’s human rights abuses. Mia Hasenson-Gross said that future relations between Britain and China should be measured by its treatment of the Uyghur, and urged: “Don’t be silent, be an ally”.

Olivia Marks-Woldman said that there were 10 classical stages of genocide, each building on the previous stage. The tenth stage, she said, was denial. All the panellists urged for more publicity and renewed awareness of what was happening to the Uyghurs, of the “dehumanisation and re-education away from their own culture”. Maajid Nawaz also warned that if people did not respond, protest and publicise, then “the unacceptable becomes routine, the new normal”.

  • 31 July, 2020