Board of Deputies of British Jews President Addresses Chinese Ambassador in New Letter

Over the past few years, we have seen increasingly more scholars, authors, human rights activists, and proponents of religious freedom draw comparisons between today’s mas incarceration and persecution of Uyghurs and Muslims in China, and the 1940s’ Holocaust which led to the deaths of millions of Jews in Germany. The Board of Deputies of British Jews is no stranger to this comparison: in just the first six months of 2020, they have hosted multiple events on the Uyghur crisis and have heard the testimonies and stories that have likened genocide in Xinjiang- now, Board President Marie van der Zyl addresses the Chinese ambassador in London directly in a new letter:

“Nobody could watch the segment of the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on which you appeared yesterday and fail to notice the similarities between what is alleged to be happening in the People’s Republic of China today and what happened in Nazi Germany 75 years ago: People being or forcibly loaded on to trains; beards of religious men being trimmed; women being sterilised; and the grim spectre of concentration camps.”

A clip of this interview has been released on The Guardian’s YouTube channel– in this video, interviewer Andrew Marr shows Ambassador Liu Xiaoming a video of about a hundred Uyghur men with their heads shaved and wearing blindfolds, being ushered in lines to board trains. Ambassador Liu tries to play it off, saying to Marr, “Xinjiang is regarded the most beautiful place in Xinjiang.” It is believed that he meant to say “Xinjiang is the most beautiful place in China.” Regardless, Marr responds to Liu by asking frankly, “Ambassador, that is not beautiful coverage however, is it?”

When Marr presses further, saying “Can i ask you why people are kneeling blindfolded and shaven and being led to trains in modern China?”, Ambassador Liu evades the question, claiming “I do not know where you got this videotape. You know, sometimes you have transfer of prisons and prisoners, you know, of any country.”

In the letter by Marie van der Zyl to Ambassador Liu regarding his appearance on the Andrew Marr Show, she warns him of the implications of this crisis on China’s image and reputation: “Germany has rightly paid a heavy price for its persecution of the Jewish people. Its historic guilt rests heavily on it and, 75 years on, its leaders and representatives continue to do all they can to make amends for the sins of their forebears.”

Van der Zyl explains that, despite China’s major achievements over the past few decades in decreasing poverty and becoming a global economic powerhouse, China is at risk of “squandering its achievements and sabotaging its own legacy if it fails to learn the lessons of history.” Van der Zyl finishes her letter by pleading with the Ambassador, urging China to release the Uyghurs from unlawful persecution, discrimination, internment, and torture. She states plainly and with conviction: “The world is watching. The hand of history is poised. For its future, China has a choice between great glory and eternal shame. Let it choose the former.”

Photo by Majkl Velner on Unsplash