For the Uyghurs, Genocide is a word which dares not speak its name. For the sake of women like Rahima Mahmut, Gulzira Auelkhan, Sayragul Sauytbay, and Ruqiye Perhat – whose heart-breaking, shocking, stories are recorded here – it’s time that the crime of genocide was given definition in the UK. On January 19th Parliament can use its voice and speak that name – insisting on justice for victims of Genocide and refusing to make tawdry trade deals with those responsible for the crime above all crimes.

Jan 18, 2021 | Featured

For the Uyghurs Genocide is a word which dares not speak its name

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Extract: What word comes into your mind when you hear evidence of  a State  complicit in the destruction of a people’s identity; complicit in mass surveillance; complicit in forced labour and enforced slavery; complicit in the uprooting of people, the destruction of communities and  families,  the prevention of births, the ruination of cemeteries where generations of loved ones had been buried?

What word comes to mind when you hear of people being  re-educated to believe that you, your people, your religion, your culture, never existed – and the certainty that through ethno-religious cleansing, you will cease to exist and give thanks to the Communist Party for your liberation?

Last week (January 2021), the  Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, told the House of Commons that he had been shocked by “the industrial scale” of the  forced labour and the concentration camps saying that he had never again expected to see pictures of people being herded like animals on to trains to take them away from kith and kin to be enslaved and stripped of their humanity.

Such echoes from a terrible past have also been heard in reports that 13 tonnes of human hair, taken from the shaved heads of Uighur people, has been exported to be used in wigs by those who are equally comfortable wearing fashion items made by Uighur slave labour.

How many heads  would have had to be shaved to produce 13  tonnes of hair. Do the math.

By some estimates, there are as many as 400 of these camps and, last August, one report, based on an analysis of satellite imagery, claimed that there are crematoria in at least nine of them.

The Chinese Communist Party says that the camps are “educational and training facilities”. Precisely what purpose does a crematorium have in an educational facility?

“Some prisoners were hung on the wall and beaten with electrified truncheons. There were prisoners who were made to sit on a chair of nails. I saw people return covered in blood. Some came back without fingernails.”

Sayragul described one elderly woman whose skin had been flayed.

“Some prisoners were hung on the wall and beaten with electrified truncheons. There were prisoners who were made to sit on a chair of nails. I saw people return covered in blood. Some came back without fingernails.”

She said that they prisoners are used for medical experiments:some of the men become sterile. Women are routinely raped.”

The issue for Parliament is whether it will allow the evidence and testimonies of women like Rahima Mahmut, Gulzira Auelkhan, Sayragul Sauytbay, and Ruqiye Perhat to be considered by our High Court, or not – and whether to allow the crime above all crimes to be given the name which, for decades, has not been allowed to speak its name. Genocide should no longer be allowed to be the crime that dares not speak its name.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2021/01/16/time-britain-act-against-vile-uighur-genocide/amp/

Times: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/global-britain-must-decide-the-ethical-price-of-trade-deals-x63sp38p5

https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2020-12-07/debates/5D794716-8635-4759-9739-2DCD263F86DE/TradeBill

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In 2008, I first raised the plight of the Uighurs through letters to Ministers, in speeches and in questions in Parliament and have done so on 34 occasions since then.

Since 2001on 400 occasions, I have also raised violations of human rights in the People’s Republic of China.

In 2008 I referred to the UK and China human rights dialogue – established in 1997 – eight years after the Tiananmen Square massacre.

I wanted to know what benchmarks the UK Government had used to evaluate the success of that process – and asked where human rights figured in China’s domestic policies and within its relationship with the rest of the world.

I drew attention to the estimated 8000 executions of prisoners carried out annually; pointed to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) policy of detention without trial and the wide use of use of “re-education through labour”; raised further concerns about the failure to implement the UN Convention on Torture and denial of freedom of expression; said that “ internet censorship has intensified, with websites regularly closed down….The BBC news site is inaccessible and broadcasts are jammed. At least 33 journalists and 50 internet users are currently detained in China.”

I referred to the case of Chen Guangchen, a blind self-taught lawyer, imprisoned in Shandong province in 2005 after he exposed the mass forced abortion and sterilisation of thousands of women in Shandong; and drew attention to the infringement of political rights and religious liberties:

“Tibetan religion is, of course, the root of Tibetan identity and that is why China wants to destroy it. There are over 100 million self-described Buddhists in China. They have been shown little tolerance. Nor have the Uighur Muslims, the Falun Gong, or Christians.”

I referred to reports of the harvesting of organs of Falun Gong members, their incarceration in re-education camps, and the use of electro-shock therapy and torture to force adherents to recant their beliefs:

“We cannot and should not ignore such realities. As China  flexes its economic muscle and enjoys unprecedented economic growth, there needs to be a commensurate change in the way it dispenses justice and deals with human rights. Change at home will influence its actions overseas and within the region—in its relations with Tibet and Taiwan, and in the way it deals with issues such as the repatriation of North Korean refugees.

In 2009 I  had the opportunity to travel to Western China and Tibet and during that visit went to the Great Mosque of Xining, the Dongguan Masjid Mosque, dating from the 14th century.  

One of the four largest mosques in Northwest China, it is the largest and most important mosque in Qinghai Province. Enlarged in 1946 it serves as a reminder of the religious pluralism, which existed  within China before the coming of Chinese Communism. In 2019 it was reported that at Dongguan the CCP had imposed their own officials to replace the Imam and that instead of religious teaching political indoctrination had taken its place.

Along with the emasculation of religious observance, even the outward appearance of religious buildings has been altered by the CCP. On a trip to the Nan guan Mosque in Yin Chuan, the United Kingdom’s deputy head of mission in China, Christina Scott, in a tweet, deplored the changes to the religious building, saying :. “Domes, minarets, everything gone. Of course, no visitors are allowed either. So depressing.”

And it isn’t only mosques

Shocking footage smuggled out of China in 2018 showed the dynamiting and  demolition of the Golden Lampstand Church in Shanxi Province. Built in 2009 it was one of the largest evangelical churches in China.

 But buildings have been the least of it.

Over the last two years, we have been seeing  report after  report shedding light on new evidence of the atrocities perpetrated against the Uyghurs, and others – including Falun Gong practitioners and unregistered Christians.

Each piece of evidence adds to the argument that the atrocities against the Uighurs amount to international crimes, and highly likely, genocide, although, without the enactment of the Genocide Amendment, having such a determination made is virtually impossible because of the CCP’s ability to veto of a referral to the International Criminal Court 

But for a moment, setting aside the technical and legal issues, it’s worth asking yourself what word would you use to describes events underway in Xinjiang?

What word comes into your mind when you hear evidence of  a State  complicit in the destruction of a people’s identity; complicit in mass surveillance; complicit in forced labour and enforced slavery; complicit in the uprooting of people, the destruction of communities and  families,  the prevention of births, the ruination of cemeteries where generations of loved ones had been buried?

What word comes to mind when you hear of people being  re-educated to believe that you, your people, your religion, your culture, never existed – and the certainty that through ethno-religious cleansing, you will cease to exist and give thanks to the Communist Party for your liberation?

Those  whose name is appended to these monstrous crimes know that name full well but smugly sleep content, believing that  corrupted, subverted  and compliant self-serving  international institutions – combined with a loss of nerve in countries which have the privilege  of democratic institutions, the rule of law, and human rights – has thus far enabled them to avoid international censure or the risk of being arraigned before a Court of Law on the charge of genocide.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Uyghurs, of which I am Vice Chair, has collated testimonies and accounts of the few individuals who have been able to escape from a region which has become a giant gulag.

Significant work has also been done by academics who have studied Xinjiang in intimately detail, one of whom one British academic say she believed Xinjiang is home to “a slow, painful, creeping genocide.”

Belatedly, politicians have woken up to this reality, too.

Last week (January 2021), the  Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, told the House of Commons that he had been shocked by “the industrial scale” of the  forced labour and the concentration camps saying that he had never again expected to see pictures of people being herded like animals on to trains to take them away from kith and kin to be enslaved and stripped of their humanity.

Such echoes from a terrible past have also been heard in reports that 13 tonnes of human hair, taken from the shaved heads of Uighur people, has been exported to be used in wigs by those who are equally comfortable wearing fashion items made by Uighur slave labour.

How many heads  would have had to be shaved to produce 13  tonnes of hair. Do the math.   

In 2019, on Holocaust Memorial Day, Mr.Raab poignantly described his own family’s ordeal during the Holocaust and spoke of his continuing sense of “raw grievance.”

He will have surely read the  powerful article published by The Guardian newspaper by the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, who said  “An unfathomable mass atrocity is being perpetrated in China. The responsibility for doing something lies with all of us.  I can no longer remain silent about the plight of the Uighurs”

During the consideration of the All-Party Genocide amendment to the Trade Bill (https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2020-12-07/debates/5D794716-8635-4759-9739-2DCD263F86DE/TradeBill ) Peers decided by a majority of 126 that it was high time we accepted our responsibility and like Rabbis Mirvis the choice of remaining silent was not an option.

Briefings in favour of the amendment have been organised by the UK’s Muslim Council and the Jewish Board of Deputies. Subsequently, the Board of Deputies sent this letter to the Prime Minister: https://www.bod.org.uk/board-of-deputies-president-urges-prime-minister-to-support-uyghur-amendment/ and a Holocaust survivor spoke powerfully in favour of the amendment: I thought that you might be interested in this powerful testimony from a Holocaust survivor urging Parliament to vote for the amendment: https://twitter.com/yetagainuk/status/1350942190168637441?s=21

The  Briefing for the Board of Deputies was addressed by Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP, Nus Ghani MP, Lisa Nandy MP, Sir Alister Carmichael MP and myself.

It included a harrowing testimony by the remarkable Rahima Mahmut, who endured unspeakable and unconscionable violations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tf31EJ3ixTU&feature=youtu.be 

Rahima’s personal story is a rare glimpse into the tightly controlled and secretive world of Xinjiang – where at least one million Uighur people are interned against their will.

But there are other glimpses and other witnesses which do not give us the luxury of claiming we did not know, we weren’t aware, and lamely asking,  how could it happen?

Dominic Raab was not exaggerating when he told the House of Commons of persecution on an industrial scale.

Doubtless he would have been privy to intelligence data and  satellite imagery. Modern day satellites can, of course, read car number plates from space, pin-point people and fine detail.  

In addition to the pictures which have been released, and which show the general outline of camps, it would be instructive to know the basis on which Mr.Raab chose his phrase that what is happening is on an industrial scale. 

By some estimates, there are as many as 400 of these camps and, last August, one report, based on an analysis of satellite imagery, claimed that there are crematoria in at least nine of them.

The Chinese Communist Party says that the camps are “educational and training facilities”. Precisely what purpose does a crematorium have in an educational facility?

Another rare escapee provided some answers to that question.

Sayragul Sauytbay, a Chinese Muslim of Khazak descent, a teacher by background, was detained by the Chinese Communist Party in 2017.

Four armed men pushed their way into her home, put a black sack over her head, bundled her into a vehicle, and took her to a camp where she was ordered to teach inmates.

 Ultimately, she escaped from China and, having given her testimony, which placed her life in mortal danger, she was given asylum in Sweden.

In March 2020 she was honoured as among the year’s “Women of Courage.”

To this day she continues to receive threatening phone calls telling her that she should think about the lives of her children.

All so very reminiscent of the Gulag stories which I heard in my early days as a young MP when travelling in the Soviet bloc, and of the behaviour of the KGB, the Securitate the Polish UB, the Stasi, the Sigurimi and all the other agencies of Secret Police empowered  by Communist regimes to terrorise and subjugate whole populations   – and which so many people in the West, at the time, were unwilling to believe could be true. CCP apologists are no different.

In a long interview (which has inspired a forthcoming  biography by an Italian journalist),  Sayragul Sauytbay described the reality of what  she had seen and experienced in one of the CCP camps.

She told Haaretz that “twenty prisoners live in one small room. They are handcuffed, their heads shaved, every move is monitored by ceiling cameras. A bucket in the corner is their toilet. The daily routine begins at 6.00 am. They are learning Chinese, memorising propaganda songs, and confessing to invented sins.”

Inmates’ “hands and feet were shackled all day, except when they had to write. Even in sleep they were shackled …They had to recite slogans from posters: Thank you to the Communist Party; I love Xi Jinping.”

The daily routine went on until midnight. She said there were about 2,500 inmates, the youngest was 13, the oldest 84.

She described torture with metal nails; fingernails pulled out; electric shocks and said “punishment is constant.”

“Some prisoners were hung on the wall and beaten with electrified truncheons. There were prisoners who were made to sit on a chair of nails. I saw people return covered in blood. Some came back without fingernails.”

She described one elderly woman whose skin had been flayed.

She said that they prisoners are used for medical experiments: “some of the men become sterile. Women are routinely raped.”

“On an everyday basis the policemen took the pretty girls with them. The police had unlimited power. There were also cases of gang rape”.

She described a shocking incident in which one woman was publicly raped by police offers with inmates forced to watch.

“They took 200 inmates outside, men and women, and told one of the women to confess her sins. She stood before us and declared that she had been a bad person, but now that she had learned Chinese she had become a better person. When she was done speaking, the policemen ordered her to disrobe and simply raped her one after the other, in front of everyone. While they were raping her they checked to see how we were reacting. People who turned their head or closed their eyes, and those who looked angry or shocked, were taken away and we never saw them again.”

Sayragul Sauytbay says that “It was awful. I will never forget the feeling of helplessness, of not being able to help her.”

This account of gang rape tallies with what Rahima Mahmut toldMembers of Parliament during the January 2021 Briefing organised by the Board of Deputies.

It tallies, too with an account by 30 year old Ruqiye Perhat, who escaped to Turkey and says she, was repeatedly raped by guards, became pregnant twice and then forcibly aborted.

She told The Washington Post that “Any woman or man under the age of 35 was raped and sexually abused.”

Gulzira Auelkhan, aged 40, incarcerated in camps for  a year and a half, confirmed that guards would enter the holding cells and “put bags on the heads of the ones they wanted.”

In a series of other interviews with escapees. the journalist Ben Mauk, who has written for The New York Times Magazine, detailed accounts of medical treatments that led to male impotence, gross punishments, water torture,  children forced to spy on their parents and revealing if their family had prohibited copies of the Holy Koran.   

The determination to erase religion and culture was described by Sayragul Sauytbay:

“Meat was served on Fridays, but it was pork. The inmates were compelled to eat it, even if they were religiously observant and did not eat pork. Refusal brought punishment.”

Of course, the CCP’s objective is to erase any trace of Islam, to criminalise ethnic identity, to eradicate minority languages, and to instil fear by arresting public figures or those representing culture and identity – such as singers, poets, and artists.

Its objective is to stop reproduction by observant Muslims.

Dr.Adrian Zenz, the leading Uighur researcher, describes a collapse in Uighur birth rates: “Natural population growth in Xinjiang has declined dramatically in recent years, with growth rates falling by84% in the two largest Uighur Prefectures between 2015and 2018 and further declining in 2019. This kind of drop is unprecedented.  There’s a ruthlessness to it. This is part of a wider control campaign to subjugate the Uighurs.”  

Locking up and sterilising the men while forcibly aborting the women (an old favourite of the CCP) will, unless the conscience of the world is aroused, achieve the final solution of  eradicating the Uighur people.

The CCP’s repeated claim that “re-education” is voluntary, and a welcome liberation, is part of a farrago of lies.

In the face of all this, one of the greatest tragedies has been the silence of so many nations who share the religious beliefs of the predominantly Muslim Uighurs.  

When I raised the persecution of Uighurs with senior figures and scholars, during a visit to the Islamic University in Islamabad in 2019, it was met with an embarrassed silence.   

Pakistan, like many other predominantly Muslim nations, has become over dependent on the CCP’s funding of major capital projects. This has been orchestrated through the CCP’s Belt and Road initiative, not inspired by generosity or altruism, but by the CCP’s needs for access to resources and its determination to turn countries like Pakistan, and many in Africa, into dependent compliant servile States.

In Islamabad and Lahore I took photographs of huge roadside fake posters purporting to show Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s illustrious founder, clenching the hand of Mao Tse Tung in friendship. This is a distorted and fictionalised piece of propaganda, all about entrenching China’s hegemony and exploiting Pakistan’s desperate need for development and the need of powerful ally, united together in their antagonism towards India.

And, as Frank Dikotter and Julia Lovell describe in their outstanding books, “Maosim: a global history”, and Dikotter’s trilogy chronicling the Great Famine, the nature of Maoism and the Cultural Revolution,  the CCP’s objective is to use the same manipulative techniques throughout the world, with docile western nations and international organisations all in their sights.

And that they are achieving their objectives was illustrated in July2020 when  22 ambassadors at the UN Human Rights Council raised the treatment of Uighurs in Xingjian.

37 other ambassadors – including those from Muslim nations such as Kuwait, Syria, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, jumped to the CCP’s defence: his bread I eat, his song I sing.

None of which inspires much confidence that countries which should be speaking out for the Uyghurs will do so.

Nor does it inspire confidence in bodies like the UN Human Rights Council to see that Pakistan and China have been elected to seats on the Council.

Not only will the CCP silence and outvote voices raised on behalf of the Uyghurs, as a  permanent member of the UN Security Council, China will veto any attempt to obtain justice for the Uyghurs.

In 2018 Sayragul Sauytbay escaped to Khazakstan.

She said that she felt compelled to speak about what she had seen and experienced  because “I cannot forget the eyes of the prisoners, expecting me to do something for them. They are innocent. I have to tell their story, to tell about the darkness they are in, about their suffering.”

While Sayragul Sauytbay risks her life, by giving her testimony, too many political leaders have been cowed into craven silence, fearful of the CCP.

 Rabbi Mirvis is right to have described “ an unfathomable mass atrocity” but will we accept, like him that  “ the responsibility for doing something lies with all of us.”?

That responsibility is adumbrated in the 1948 Genocide Convention and the 1998 Rome Statute – both of which the UK has signed.

It is hard to see which if any of the 11 criteria listed in Article 7 of that Statute (crimes against humanity) have not been breached by the CCP in Xijiang – while there is also a clear breach of all five of the criteria listed in Article 6 (genocide): “For the purpose of this Statute, “genocide” means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

The issue for Parliament is whether it will allow the evidence and testimonies of women like Rahima Mahmut, Gulzira Auelkhan, Sayragul Sauytbay, and Ruqiye Perhat to be considered by our Hight Court, or not – and whether to allow the crime above all crimes to be given the name which, for decades, has not been allowed to speak its name.  Genocide should no longer be allowed to be the crime that dares not speak its name.

Lord David Alton

For 18 years David Alton was a Member of the House of Commons and today he is an Independent Crossbench Life Peer in the UK House of Lords.

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