Demonstrations were held Thursday outside the Chinese embassy in London demanding an end to the genocide of ethnic Uyghur Muslims by authorities in the country’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region, also known as East Turkestan.
The rally was organized by a coalition of over 50 British Muslim organizations under the umbrella campaign ‘Stand4Uyghurs’ and was held to coincide with celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The coalition includes major regional Islamic centers such as Finsbury Park Mosque and the East London Mosque & London Muslim Centre as well as Muslim media organizations such as Islam21c and Islam Channel.
Prominent members of the Muslim community and society at large also made appearances. They addressed the ongoing ethnic cleansing in East Turkestan and reiterated their support for the Uyghur people and portrayed a message of global solidarity and moral support. Attendees included the founding Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, and the newly elected head of the Muslim Association of Britain Raghad Altikriti.
The campaign coordinator of the event and chief editor of Islam21c, Salman Butt, spoke of the increasing awareness in the UK and across the world of the ongoing ethnic cleansing and genocide in Xinjiang but also the difficulty people face in taking appropriate action to bring an end to these mass injustices. He explained that this campaign aims to tackle these shortcomings by motivating people and by providing them with accurate information on the major crisis that is occurring in East Turkestan.
“More and more people are finding out about the horrific treatment of the Uyghurs, but not many people know what to do to help them. This longer-term campaign aims to tackle three issues: motivate people by highlighting examples of how powerful their voice is; inform them with accurate information of who the Uyghurs are and what is happening to them; then channeling them towards effective action. As for the launch this Thursday, it is a rare opportunity to show moral support to Uyghurs and other oppressed minorities on a day which they themselves have reached out to us to make a stand on. It is the least we can do.”
Abdulhakim Idris, the inspector general of the World Uyghur Congress, in a statement said “the CCP has killed more than 60 million of its own citizens during its reign. The systematic genocide against Uyghur Muslims is just one in a long line of death and state terror. The global Uyghur diaspora called on all people to use their voices to make this known to the world on this day in particular, and we are grateful to all those standing up and doing their part.”
Message of collective action
The main theme of Thursday’s rally was to send out a message of global unity and solidarity for the Uyghur Muslim ethnic group in the face of Chinese oppression. Guest speakers reiterated the point that despite China’s superpower status on the international stage, its diplomatic weight in the UN and its economic might, normal people across the world can collectively make a difference by standing up to oppressors.
“Today’s occasion is quite an important event with people from different backgrounds expressing a very strong view that the atrocities and acts of genocide that are taking place in East Turkestan cannot continue and we have wonderful scholars and speakers from different parts of the country expressing their views in a very strong manner, and the key objective is that the message has to be conveyed to the Chinese government that these actions being carried out are not only against international law but a breach of basic human rights,” Sacranie said.
He believes that Muslim nations are in a unique position in that they can exercise a level of influence on Beijing that would work to the benefit of Uyghur Muslims. These Muslim states, according to Sacranie, have strong political and economic ties with China, and if they leverage their socio-political and economic relations with Beijing, they could help bring about an end to the Uyghur Muslim genocide in Xinjiang.
“Muslim countries are in a very strong position. They have very good relations with China, both politically and economically, and they can exercise that level of influence to advise China in a positive manner as they also have similar issues in their own countries regarding human rights abuses, and if they do not take the appropriate actions such as sanctions against China, then the oppressed communities within those Muslim countries will be able to rise against those governments, so it would serve them well to urge China to end the Uyghur genocide.”
Systemic ethnic cleansing and genocide
The Chinese government has come under increasing criticism from the international community after mounting evidence revealed that Beijing is implementing an intense campaign of ethnic and cultural genocide as well as horrific human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Recent satellite imagery has shown the rapid growth of mass concentration camps in the countryside of Xinjiang.
The Chinese government has defended its genocidal policies in the region, arguing that they are necessary coercive measures which are aimed at tackling extremism and terrorism. This is a trope that is routinely used to mask and cover up the gross human rights abuses being committed. As part of its cultural genocide, Beijing has destroyed centuries-old mosques and Muslim cemeteries, forcibly denied Muslims the right to practice their faith and is altering the traditional structure of Uyghur Muslim families.
The Chinese government has routinely denied the existence of concentration camps, despite there being clear evidence to the contrary. Up to a million Uyghur Muslims are believed to be detained in these camps. The regime claims that these are ‘re-educational centers’ which are built to reform the local population and teach them new skills. Survivors and former detainees of such camps, however, have spoken of brutal and inhuman acts of torture, both physical and psychological.
Earlier this year, a horrifying report published by the BBC revealed the extent to which rape is used against defenseless Uyghur Muslim women detained in these concentration camps. The report shares horrific and explicit witness accounts of how Chinese soldiers and police officers viciously rape and torture Uyghur women in the camps. Furthermore, Uyghur Muslim women are forcibly sterilized, robbing them of their right to bear children. These policies appear to be aimed at curbing the Muslim population in the region.
A ground-breaking report published in March this year revealed that every single article of the United Nations 1948 Genocide Convention has been violated by the Chinese state in its treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
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