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UK chief rabbi: Unfathomable mass atrocity perpetrated on China’s Uighur Muslims

In rare statement on issue not related to communal matters, UK Jewish leader says Beijing crackdown on minority leaves him ‘reflecting upon the deep pain of Jewish persecution’

Illustrative: Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis gives a speech as he attends a Holocaust Memorial Day Ceremony at Central Hall Westminster, January 27, 2015. (AP/Chris Jackson)
Illustrative: Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis gives a speech as he attends a Holocaust Memorial Day Ceremony at Central Hall Westminster, January 27, 2015. (AP/Chris Jackson)

JTA — In an unusual intervention, British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said that he is “compelled to speak out” on the plight of China’s Uighur Muslim minority.

Members of that minority face “forced imprisonment, the separation of children from their parents and a culture of intimidation and fear,” he wrote in an op-ed Tuesday in The Guardian, leaving him “reflecting upon the deep pain of Jewish persecution throughout the ages.”

China cracked down on its Uighur population in 2017, in what many witnesses said was a militarized action that put many thousands of Uighurs in detention camps, among other restrictions. Chinese officials have disputed this, saying they are targeting extremists.

British chief rabbis rarely speak out on societal matters that do not directly affect their community.

“It is clear that there must be an urgent, independent and unfettered investigation into what is happening,” Mirvis wrote in the op-ed.

In this December 3, 2018, file photo, a guard tower and barbed wire fence surround a detention facility in the Kunshan Industrial Park in Artux in western China’s Xinjiang region. The Associated Press has found that the Chinese government is carrying out a birth control program aimed at Uighurs, Kazakhs and other largely Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, even as some of the country’s Han majority is encouraged to have more children. The measures include detention in prisons and camps, such as this facility in Artux, as punishment for having too many children. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

Those responsible, he added, “must be held to account and Uighurs able to escape must be given asylum.”

He urged readers to write to their lawmakers, the media and others to take action. He also likened the oppression of Uyghurs to that of Blacks in his native South Africa.

“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,” wrote Mirvis.

“At this very moment, an unfathomable mass atrocity is being perpetrated. Though the task is great, none of us are free to desist from it. As Nelson Mandela himself said: ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done,'” Mirvis wrote.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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