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On Holocaust Memorial Day, Jews highlight China’s onslaught on Uyghur Muslims

Uyghur activists demand condemnation of China's genocidal crimes on Holocaust Memorial Day

Today, on the Holocaust Memorial Day, some of the world's leading Jewish and Christian groups will come together to express solidarity with China's Uyghur Muslims and urge the world to focus on their ongoing persecution in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). They believe that the oppression of the Uyghurs, due to their ethnic and religious identity, serves as a chilling reminder to the horrors committed against the Jews in the Holocaust.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is an international memorial day on January 27 commemorating the tragedy of the Holocaust that occurred during the Second World War. This year's ceremony is inspired by the theme 'be the light in the darkness' and will be live-streamed in its entirety Wednesday evening.

"The plight of the Uyghur people, suffering terrible oppression by the Chinese government, is all too familiar. If being a light in the darkness means anything, it means doing everything we can to help bring them a new dawn after a long and dreadful night," London-based Rene Cassin – which promotes and protects universal human rights drawing on Jewish experience and values – said in its Holocaust Memorial Day 2021 statement today.

The human rights abuses taking place at the hands of the Chinese Communist government in Xinjiang were also highlighted Monday during an interfaith event hosted virtually ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Organised jointly by Rene Cassin and the Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) which works to defend, uphold and promote the right to freedom of religion or belief in over 20 countries across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, the event titled 'Together for Uyghurs' saw several faith leaders coming together to express solidarity with China's Uyghurs.

Besides Uyghur rights advocates, it also featured video messages from senior Rabbis Laura Janner Klausner, Jonathan Wittenberg, Dr Michael Hilton and Dr Margaret Jacobi. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the chief executive of Humanists UK, Andrew Copson, and Al Haj U Aye Lwin, chief convener for the Islamic Centre of Myanmar also sent their pre-recorded video messages.

"It's a nightmare I wish I could wake up from," said US-based Uyghur Ziba Murat whose mother Gulshan Abbas, a retired medical doctor and sister of prominent activist Rushan Abbas, has been sentenced to 20 years of prison on charges of "terrorism" by Beijing.   

"Never again should mean something. The legacy of millions of innocent people brutally murdered demands this. This isn't just about me. This isn't just about Uyghurs, but by addressing these individual cases by demanding my mom's freedom, we are also protecting the future of the world, and the conscience of humanity," said Ziba.

The participants agreed that memory of the Holocaust lives on in the human rights framework, which gives the Jewish community both a particular authority and an acute moral responsibility to speak out against in protest when such atrocities are now happening to the Uyghurs.

"We know as Jews what it feels like to be victims of genocide and the enormous difference it makes when people are allies. We will always be your allies," said Rabbi Janner Klausner.

"I want to say on behalf of my people, on behalf of the Jewish people in the best way we can, that you are not alone, and that participating here speaking or indeed listening is a responsibility to care, and to commit to caring for you and for your people," Rabbi Wittenberg was reported as saying by the Jewish Chronicle, the world's oldest Jewish newspaper.

Meanwhile, Campaign For Uyghurs (CFU) which promotes human rights and democratic freedoms for the Uyghurs and other Turkic people in East Turkistan, condemned Tuesday the "hypocrisy" of a statement from the Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations.

On January 25, Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun posted a tweet stating that he was "Honoured to join Secretary-General in marking the 76th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. History can't be denied, distorted, or forgotten. The great truth of history tells us humanity will prevail, justice will prevail and peace will prevail."

The Uyghur rights body said that it is "disgusted" that someone representing a regime that is committing crimes against humanity and active genocide feels empowered to make this type of statement on social media.

CFU said that the Chinese ambassador's participation stands as dishonoring to victims of genocide in light of International Holocaust Remembrance Day and should be balanced by a condemnation of China's genocidal crimes by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, which is "sadly lacking."

"I am horrified that these international criminals continue to use our platforms of free speech to spread dehumanizing lies to power their genocidal crimes, while human rights activists face constant attack and libel on these same platforms. I myself, as a U.S. citizen, have had lies published about me in libelous tweets from Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian, and Chinese state media outlet Global Times," said CFU Executive Director Rushan Abbas.

Uyghur activists said that the statement on history reflects a call to the international community to address the Chinese regime and is ironically a complete misrepresentation of China’s actual practices regarding teaching history and distorting the truth.

Their argument centred around the fact that while United States politicians and others can be censored for sharing misinformation, the Chinese State continues to be allowed to share genocide denialism.