Jews must speak up for the Uyghurs in China
  • Thu, 04/11/2019 - 19:22

Amy Woolfson
APR 11, 2019, 5:42 PM

The Jewish people don’t need to be warned about genocide. We know it doesn’t happen overnight. We know it starts with a culture being demonised, and with hate and repression becoming normal. Then people start disappearing. That’s what is happening today in China. It is estimated that over a million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are being detained indefinitely in ‘re-education’ camps in China’s western Xinjiang Region.

The range of people detained in the camps, from elderly women, to intellectuals, and celebrated artists, undermines the official line that they are being detained in order to receive training. They are being detained as part of a wider effort by the Chinese government to subdue and erase Uyghur culture.

Who are the Uyghurs? They are a Turkic minority, ethnically and culturally very different from China’s Han majority. The majority of Uyghurs – around 11 million – live in Xinjiang, but there are significant communities in central Asia, Turkey, Germany, and the United States. There is a small Uyghur community here in the UK too. Many Uyghurs practise Islam, and do not speak Mandarin as a first language. Since 1949 the Uyghur homeland has been a part of the People’s Republic of China. Decades of Han migration and discriminatory policies towards Uyghur people have led to tensions and sporadic violence.

Repression of Uyghurs has escalated massively since 2016. The Chinese Government say that they are responding to extremism in the Uyghur community. It is true that some Uyghurs have gone to fight in Syria. But the Chinese Government’s response to this has been to punish millions of people, many of whom have been labelled ‘extreme’ for such things as refusing to eat pork, or speaking to a relative overseas.

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