Recognise the genocide, but don’t rely on the superpowers

Photo of the UK Houses of Parliament taken from across the River Thames

Photo of Parliament by Eva Dang on Unsplash

This Thursday 22 April, Parliament will vote on a motion recognising that the persecution of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and the other indigenous peoples of Xinjiang (East Turkestan) constitutes genocide and crimes against humanity.

There is now extensive evidence of the Chinese state’s campaigns of mass incarceration in camps and prisons (where abuse, torture, death and suicide are at least frequent); imprisonment of cultural, intellectual and religious leaders; cultural, political and linguistic repression and re-education; forced contraception and sterilisation; family separation; and the taking of indigenous children into “orphanages” for culturally Han upbringing.

Through suppressing births, suppressing and replacing culture and language, inflicting severe injury and death on individuals, and breaking up families and communities, the Chinese state intends to destroy the ability of East Turkestan’s indigenous peoples to exist and renew themselves as a collective group. This clearly meets the definition of genocide set out in Article II of the UN Genocide Convention.

It is right to name this crime. We urge all MPs to vote for the motion. Find your MP’s email address on parliament’s website and contact them before the vote.

Nevertheless, we can place no trust in the British state to help stop this crime. The British, US and allied states consistently violate human rights around the world, and freely prop up murderous tyrants when it profits them to do so, as in Saudi Arabia. The sudden concern shown by many hawkish, nationalistic politicians has less to do with human rights, and more to do with their desire to ramp up McCarthyite scapegoating at home and superpower rivalry abroad. Naming the genocide won’t change their base motives.

Sadly, we even have to guard against the possibility that if they do act beyond rhetoric and symbolic gestures, they could make the situation worse, not better. The manoeuvres and clashes of an intensified superpower rivalry would not help the people of East Turkestan – they would only squeeze and endanger the working classes and oppressed people of both China and its Western rivals. In particular, we absolutely oppose any attempt to use the ongoing genocide as an excuse for militarisation.

As we have argued in the past, if governments are serious about helping, instead of sabre-rattling, and more than sanctions, they need to take actions such as opening our borders and offering security and equality to all refugees fleeing persecution; and forcing corporate giants to investigate their supply chains across the world, open their books to the public, and cut ties to forced labour and human rights abuses.

Above all, more than looking to courts or governments, we need grassroots international solidarity.

We are heartened to see the growing sympathy and outrage from ordinary people around the world as knowledge of the atrocities spreads. Correctly naming the genocide is part of that process of education. And from education, we will keep working to rouse solidarity action. Most immediately, as the pandemic lockdown lifts, we can and will escalate protest and direct action against the corporate profiteers that are a core part of the regimes of mass surveillance, detention and forced labour imposed on the Uyghurs and other indigenous peoples of East Turkestan.

See you on the streets.

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