CJ Werleman pens an open letter to the European Parliament, urging it to deliver through action its condemnation of China’s cleansing of its Muslim minority in states such as Xinjiang.

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Dear Members of the European Parliament,

You have been a shining light in a corridor of darkness in going further than any other multinational institution in condemning China’s human rights abuses against its ethnic Uyghur minority. 

Where other international institutions, including the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and other members of the international community, have failed to live up to commitments made in the aftermath of the Holocaust – specifically the promise that “never again” can such an event be allowed to occur – you have not shirked your moral responsibility.

The archaic structure of the United Nations – particularly the way in which the Security Council serves as a safeguard for the five major powers, including China, to do whatever they want, wherever they want – has again foiled multinational efforts to prevent ethnic cleansing and cultural genocide. Also standing in the way is the fear a great many nation states hold towards Beijing’s ability to exact economic vengeance against those which impede or imperil its economic and expansionist imperatives. The way in which roughly a dozen Muslim-majority countries, all of which are dependent on Chinese trade and investment, have essentially rubber-stamped the detainment of more than three million Muslims by parroting Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda serves as testimony to this tragic reality.

In passing a resolution that strongly condemns the detainment and incarceration of Muslims in Xinjiang, while also providing a road map for implementing concrete measures meant to pressure China into ending its repressive and barbaric measures, you have given hope where there was previously none.

But we, human rights activists, implore you to go further still, and now put in place the concrete measures which EU Parliament Resolution 2019/2945(RSP) demands.

The resolution gives you a mandate to target China and CCP officials with sanctions and asset freezes as a means to punish Beijing for its human rights violations and deter a continuation or worsening of current conditions faced by the predominately Muslim Uyghur minority. It also calls on the CCP to end its system of hi-tech totalitarianism, including round-the-clock mass surveillance strategies.

The situation in Xinjiang “has rapidly deteriorated in the last few years” because of the “strategic location of Xinjiang as a core region for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI),” according to the resolution, which adds that “the Chinese Government’s war on terror in Xinjiang is increasingly turning into a war on religion and ethnicity”. The resolution also calls on the CCP to immediately shut down the camps, release detainees and grant human rights groups and international journalists unrestricted access to the region.

The World Uyghur Congress, an activist group based in Germany, called it a “turning point” – but it is has now been more than two months since the resolution was passed.

“While the EU has been among the loudest voices calling for the camps to be closed, it has yet to take strong and concrete action to realise this goal,” declared the World Uyghur Congress in a recent statement.

Human rights activists remain hopeful that the specific measures you have promised against China are close at hand, given the recent leaking of two troves of CCP documents, known respectively as the “China Cables” and “Qaraqash Document”, which prove that Beijing is incarcerating millions of ethnic Uyghurs solely on the basis of their religious faith.

Beyond sanctioning high-level CCP officials and those specifically involved in the camp enterprise, you could implement a legislative proposal that could “pave the way for a complete ban on the importation into the EU of goods produced through modern forms of slavery or forced labour, especially forced work of vulnerable groups extorted in violation of basic human rights standards”.

The national security magazine Lawfare observes that a EU law against goods involved in forced labour could target “specific types of Chinese-made goods known to frequently involve components from Xinjiang”, with assistance from supply-chain specialists and industry experts.

Such a measure would exact a tremendous cost on Beijing, forcing European companies that are known to be “entangled” with China’s repressive actions in Xinjiang – such as Volkswagen, Adidas and H&M – to reconsider their business practices which, in turn, would inflict a blow to the Chinese economy at a point when it has been hardly more vulnerable in modern times, particularly as a result of the spread of the coronavirus.

You could also band together in boycotting the Winter Olympic Games to be held in Beijing in 2022, which would deliver a humiliating blow to China given that European countries are expected to win a lion’s share of the total medal count. A Winter Olympics without Europe would be as meaningful as a Rugby World Cup absent southern hemisphere teams such as New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.

While the EU Parliament has been a consistently vocal critic of China’s persecution of Uyghur Muslims, the December resolution calls for specific and concrete action. It’s time for you to execute the mandate your Parliament has delivered.

The safety and wellbeing of millions of Uyghur Muslims in China can wait no longer.


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