How liberals should be responding to the Uyghur Muslim genocide

The United Kingdom has, for years, taking a flexible approach to the importance of human rights. On the one hand, the UK has taken an impressive stance on the Magnitsky sanctions against human rights abusers, on the other, we often act far too slowly or not at all when it comes to our allies or powerful countries.

We as a party have always stood tall in our defence of human rights. The treatment of the Uyghur Muslim community has been no exception, and the work of Alistair Carmichael, Maajid Nawaz and the Young Liberals should be applauded.

The work, however, cannot stop with hunger strikes, words and motions at a conference. This is even more pertinent when the Chinese Ambassador has the nerve to go on the Andrew Marr show and lie about the situation in Xinjiang.

This comes to the point of this article, which is about what we as a party can and should be doing about this crisis.

Firstly, we have over 50 councils up and down the UK where the Liberal Democrats are in power or a power-sharing agreement. Our councils should be volunteering to house Uyghur refugees. South Cambridgeshire had a similar programme with Syrian refugees.

Secondly, we should be supporting the application of the Magnitsky sanctions to Chinese business owners with links to the treatment of the Uyghur community. This would follow on from the initial announcement of sanctions against people in Russia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea.

Thirdly, the Chinese state is one that responds to strength. We must lobby the government to work with the EU, the US and other influential players on the international stage in order to have a coordinated response to the crisis. As a lone state, we cannot force a change in the way the Uyghur community is treated, but standing together, the international community has a fighting chance at showing we are serious.

As a young person-specific idea, many young members are at universities around the UK. Students Liberal Democrats will interact with numbers of academics and students at events such as freshers fairs. The Young Liberals should focus its freshers’ campaign on raising the awareness of the Uyghur Muslim crisis, following on from the excellent motion proposed and accepted at the recent Young Liberal Conference.

Lastly, we should be holding events to raise awareness of the plight of the Uyghur Muslim community. For example, on  July 31st, Liberal Reform, where there is a panel of speakers including former MEP Luisa Porritt and Mark Johnson, who is a trustee of the World Uyghur Congress. There is scope for many other groups to hold similar events, or indeed local parties to host speakers on the issue.

* Callum Robertson is a teacher and former Chair of the Young Liberals

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Jul '20 - 2:08pm

    As my recent article on the subject on this site reveals, some of us feel there are no more important subjects than these, real, awful violations of rights.

    We as a party have an excellent record. However, it is too obsessed with few issues. As individuals many of us fight to get heard, whether in this party or beyond. It is a disadvantage to be unheard. A new approach, one of connection, would be welcome.

    liberalism is looking and listening or it is little else, worthwhile at all.

    This topic is topical but eternal. I wrote articles on it, and flag people to this human rights disaster, but people need to be engaged. That means it is when people with the profile on the radio do it, we need to engage there. Too few do unless on their pet cause. Too few accept the hand of friendship on an issue.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Jul '20 - 2:30pm

    Apologies, part of this not got through…

    … the hand of friendship here by Liberal Reform and this very good piece from Callum with suggestions, reveals such connections, and by individuals and groups. There is Liberalism. It reflects in a positive way on Liberal Reform. And I am glad of this session, and to be attending it. I advise others attend too…

  • richard underhill 29th Jul '20 - 3:17pm

    If you are Liberal you are international. You cannot be one without the other.

  • Paul Barker 29th Jul '20 - 3:27pm

    We have to beware of Victim blaming & Whataboutery here, British Muslims do not have a stronger duty than the rest of us to protest about The Uighurs.
    This campaign is part of a broader need to develop an International Strategy nto contain Chinese Imperialism which now operates Worldwide. See the story about Chinese Fishing Fleets damaging The Galapagos as an example.

  • James Belchamber 29th Jul '20 - 4:38pm

    @Richard Malim that’s incredibly racist.

  • Too much faith in the CCP’s embrace of market led capitalism to moderate its grip on China made it fashionable to turn a blind eye to what it is. The attacks on its Uyghur population is yet another manifestation of its aggressive policies of enforced conformity and expansionism. The CPP is an appalling irredeemably corrupt organisation, with motives we really should be more suspicious of.

  • Ronald Murray 30th Jul '20 - 12:00pm

    Good article Callum. I think the attitude of the Chinese state is coming to a head. There is also the case of Tibet. The appalling abuse of animals in China and they’re worldwide exploitation of all wildlife donkeys, rhino, elephant in Africa alone. Two hundred Chinese mega trawlers spotted by the Ecuador Navy in the Galapagos islands.
    Forgetting 5G for the moment the greed of western manufacturers moving so much manufacturing to China has destroyed thousands of jobs. I despair for the people of Hong Kong in the future. We and all the UK parties must have a much more robust attitude to the regime. Even Karl Marx would not recognise any of the communist regimes as based on his writings. Waiting to hear what Ed and Layla have to say.

  • Peter Hirst 30th Jul '20 - 3:38pm

    A quick look at Google Maps suggests that many of these people might want to move west away from China. Could we make it easier for them? China’s treatment while preventing their emigration doesn’t make sense.

  • Robin Bennett 30th Jul '20 - 5:52pm

    Good article.

    @ James Belchamber: A year ago, in the UN so-called Human Rights Council, all the Muslim members voted to approve China’s Uyghurs policy. (Not one is democratic, and many receive aid from China).

    BTW most overseas Chinese are hugely proud of the way the regime has rapidly brought most of the country out of poverty. Criticism is often regarded as “anti-Chinese”. We must try to distinguish the regime from its people.

    When Dominic Raab announced, with unanimous approval, the Magnitsky sanctions he sounded sympathetic to them being extended to include Chinese officials. Our MPs should keep the pressure for this to happen.

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