UK chief rabbi lambastes China’s persecution of Uighurs, likens it to Holocaust

UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis publishes an op-ed in the Guardian newspaper denouncing the widely documented human rights violations by China against its Uighur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang province, saying he “can no longer remain silent” about the matter.

“Elie Wiesel once said: ‘Whoever listens to a witness becomes a witness.’ Having also heard similar accounts from others, and reflecting upon the deep pain of Jewish persecution throughout the ages, I feel compelled to speak out,” Mirvis writes, likening the plight of the Uighurs to that of Jews during the Holocaust and later in the Soviet Union.

“Can it be true that, in our modern, sophisticated world, men and women are still beaten if they refuse to renounce their faith? That women are forced to abort their unborn children and are then sterilised to prevent them from becoming pregnant again? That forced imprisonment, the separation of children from their parents and a culture of intimidation and fear have become the norm?” he asks.

UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, January 23, 2020 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

“I have met researchers and campaigners to find out whether there might be any hope of positive change. I have written letters and raised the matter in private with key figures. With every interaction, I have been left feeling that any improvement in the desperate situation is impossible.

“It is clear that there must be an urgent, independent and unfettered investigation into what is happening. Those responsible must be held to account and Uighurs able to escape must be given asylum.

“Alongside these responses and to help bring them about, every one of us shares in the responsibility to act. Today I urge you to write to your MP. Write letters to the press. Write to the companies that have been linked to Uighur forced labour. Take to social media. Talk to your friends about what is happening and encourage them to do the same. Let no person say that the responsibility lies with others.”