Jewish activists express ‘fury’ against government's plans to meet top Xinjiang official

Erkin Tuniyaz's administration is linked to mass detainment and persecution of Uyghur Muslims 


Jewish campaigners expressed their fury on Monday after MPs said the governor of China’s troubled northwest Xinjiang province, Erkin Tuniyaz, could travel to the UK this week to meet Foreign Office officials.

Allegations against Mr Tuniyaz’s administration include forcibly sterilising women, and detaining over 1 million Uyghur Muslims and other Turkic minorities in forced labour and “re-education” camps.

Jonathan Gibson, a 20-year-old student who chairs the Students for Uyghurs body and volunteers as an advisor to the Jewish human rights charity René Cassin told the JC: “It is our duty to speak out against the government's decision. 

 “I started getting involved in this cause after I visited Poland and I saw the area in which much of my family was murdered during the Holocaust," said the Finchley United Synagogue member.

 “I couldn't understand the Nazis and the way they behaved, but then also how many countries across the world were complicit via their inaction. We must try and ensure such tragedies do not keep happening over and over again.

“First and foremost the Foreign Office should be meeting with Uyghur community members themselves to hear their first-hand experiences. I am furious that they have instead decided to meet with a man linked to the horrific abuses this community are being subject to in Xinjiang.”

A North London United Synagogue rabbi, who volunteers with the Jews for Uyghurs campaign group, also spoke out against the FCDO's controversial plans, explaining: “I am here to show my solidarity. 

“I started campaigning on this issue in 2018 and this cause is close to my heart as I believe my Jewish values and identity oblige me to constantly reflect on the urgent sentiment of ‘never again’. 

“The abuse of the Uyghurs by the Chinese regime exposes the existence of modern-day slavery and its implications, which extend to products we use every day. It is important to me that I exhibit the Jewish values of being mindful and grateful for what sustains us."

Retired physician Sheldon Stone, who sits on the campaign group Stop Uyghur Genocide UK's Advisory Board, described the “strong support among Jews for the Uyghur cause." 

“We have our own history of persecution and discrimination, which morphed into the genocide of the Holocaust, and it has major similarities to what is happening to the Uyghurs.  

“Jews knew in the 1930s and 40s what it was like to have too few to speak up and act for us. And we are instructed by our tradition not to do the same sort of thing to other people that we hate having done to ourselves.

 “The Talmud even says that anyone who does not effectively protest the wrongful conduct of his household, his town, or even the whole world, is to be punished for that very conduct of the household, the town, or the whole world.”

“It was an honour to stand alongside members of the Uyghur Muslim community to demonstrate against both the ongoing Uyghur genocide and the invitation of the governor of Xinjiang to meet with the foreign office.

"Jewish students voted overwhelmingly to protest the Uyghur genocide at our conference in 2021, and it was a privilege to stand in solidarity with the Uyghur community today," UJS Sabbatical Officer for Liberation and Jewish Engagement and Enrichment Dora Hirsh & Campaigns Officer Guy Dabby-Joory told the JC in an official statement following Monday's protest.

Mr Tuniyaz was sanctioned by the United States in 2021 for his alleged involvement in abuses of the Uyghur minority, which a 2021 tribunal in London concluded was genocide. 

The FCDO said in a statement that any meeting with Xinjiang's top bureaucrat will not take place in government buildings and will involve officials rather than ministers.

Former Conservative Party leader and Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China Co-Chair Iain Duncan Smith and Labour peer, Dame Helena Kennedy KC, Rahima Mahmut, Executive Director of the Stop Uyghur Genocide also gave speeches during the demonstration.

On Tuesday evening the Foreign Office said in a statement: "We understand the governor of Xinjiang has cancelled his visit to the UK.

“The UK government will continue to use all opportunities to take action against China’s unacceptable human rights abuses in Xinjiang.”

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