Faith leaders, including 20 British Rabbis, call for urgent action on Xinjiang 'potential genocide'

Appealing for an international investigation, the signatories said that repression in Xinjiang is 'one of the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust'


This photo taken on June 4, 2019 shows a man walking past a screen showing images of China's President Xi Jinping in Kashgar in China's northwest Xinjiang region. - China has enforced a massive security crackdown in Xinjiang, where more than one million ethnic Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are believed to be held in a network of internment camps that Beijing describes as "vocational education centres" aimed at steering people away from religious extremism. (Photo by Greg Baker / AFP) (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)

Twenty British rabbis are among 76 faith leaders in the UK, North America and South-East Asia to sign an open letter calling for urgent action to prevent “the potential genocide of Uyghurs and other Muslims in China”.

The letter, which was published on Saturday, was signed by faith leaders from the UK, the United States, Canada, Italy, Burma and Indonesia.

Its signatories represent a myriad of denominations of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, as well as Humanism and Tibetan Buddhism.

The statement reads that the persecution of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China’s far western region of Xinjiang is “the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust”.

The letter appeals for an international investigation into Chinese policies in Xinjiang and for those responsible for “crimes” to be held to account.  

“We have seen many persecutions and mass atrocities,” the letter reads, “these need our attention. But there is one that, if allowed to continue with impunity, calls into question most seriously the willingness of the international community to defend universal human rights for everyone – the plight of the Uyghurs.”

China is reportedly holding over one million people, mostly Uyghurs, in internment camps throughout Xinjiang and has subjected the region’s Muslim population to abuse and mistreatment that include forced labour, surveillance, and stringent restrictions on the practice of religious and cultural practices.

Critics, including Uyghur rights groups, have said that the Chinese campaign amounts to cultural genocide.

Jewish leaders formed over one-quarter of the signatories, which also included dozens of Muslim leaders, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, London’s Coptic-Orthodox Archbishop Angaelos, and the Catholic Cardinals of Myanmar and Indonesia. 

Among the Jewish signatories include the Senior Sephardi Rabbi Joseph Dweck, Senior Rabbi at Golders Green Synagogue Dr Harvey Belovski, the Interim Director of Liberal Judaism Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, and Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger.

The authors of the open letter pointed to recent reports that suggested that a campaign of forced sterilisation of Uyghur women in an effort to suppress population growth – “an action which, according to the 1948 Genocide Convention, could elevate this to the level of genocide.”

“The clear aim of the Chinese authorities is to eradicate the Uyghur identity,” the faith leaders write.  

The text compares the repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang to the Holocaust, writing: “After the Holocaust, the world said ‘Never Again’. Today, we repeat those words ‘Never Again’, all over again.”  

“We urge people of faith and conscience everywhere to join us: in prayer, solidarity and action to end these mass atrocities. We make a simple call for justice, to investigate these crimes, hold those responsible to account and establish a path towards the restoration of human dignity.”

The letter was welcomed by the Board of Deputies, Christian human rights group CSW, as well as the leading Uyghur rights groups the World Uyghur Congress, the Coalition for Genocide Response, and Stop Uyghur Genocide.

The letter also expressed solidarity with Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners, and Chinese Christians, which the signatories described as facing "the worst crackdown on freedomm of religion or belief since the Cultural Revolution."

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive