Chief Rabbi hits out at China over treatment of Uighur Muslims

Ephraim Mirvis said hearing accounts of Chinese persecution made him ‘compelled’ to voice his deep concern


Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has spoken out against the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uighur Muslims. 

Writing in the Guardian, Rabbi Mirvis said that having heard accounts of persecution from Uighur Muslims, “and reflecting upon the deep pain of Jewish persecution throughout the ages, I feel compelled to speak out”. 

He continued: “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? 

“Sadly, the weight of evidence of this persecution of the Uighur Muslim minority in China is overwhelming. Satellite images, leaked documents and survivor testimonies all paint a devastating picture affecting well over one million people, which, for the most part, the world continues to ignore.” 

Chief Rabbi Mirvis noted his own experiences campaigning against the treatment of Jews in the Soviet Union during the 1980s, and remarked that change to the seemingly “insurmountable justice” eventually did come. 

“The freedoms we enjoy, coupled with a perception that nothing we do will help, often create a culture of apathy,” he wrote. “Time and again, history has taught us that it is precisely such apathy that permits hatred to flourish. The Talmud teaches that: ‘We are not expected to complete the task, but neither are we free to desist from it’.” 

The Chief Rabbi called for an “urgent, independent and unfettered investigation” into the treatment of Uighur Muslims, and urged readers to write to companies linked to the use of Uighurs for forced labour. 

The Chinese state has reportedly incarcerated as many as a million of its Uighur citizens – a Muslim minority which lives mostly in the Xinjiang province in northwestern China – in “re-education camps”.  

The Chinese government has also been accused of a programme of forced sterilisation against Uighur women, which it denies. 

Previously, Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl has spoken out against their treatment, and in a letter to the Chinese ambassador to the UK cited “similarities” between the treatment of Uighurs and Nazi persecution. 

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