TWO cardinals joined 74 other religious leaders in a written statement that condemned the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghurs as “one of the most egregious human tragedies since the holocaust”.
Jakarta Archbishop Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo and Yangon Archbishop Cardinal Charles Maung Bo called for “prayer, solidarity and action to end these mass atrocities”.
Other Catholic leaders like England and Wales Bishops Conference international affairs chair Bishop Declan Lang were also among the signatories of the statement released on August 8.
“As religious leaders and leaders of belief-based communities, we come together to affirm human dignity for all by highlighting one of the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust: the potential genocide of the Uyghurs and other Muslims in China,” the statement said.
“We have seen many persecutions and mass atrocities.
“These need our attention.
“But there is one that, if allowed to continue with impunity, calls into question most seriously the willingness of the international community to defend universal human rights for everyone – the plight of the Uyghurs.
“At least one million Uyghur and other Muslims in China are incarcerated in prison camps facing starvation, torture, murder, sexual violence, slave labor, and forced organ extraction.”
The Community Party of China calls the camps Vocational Education and Training Centres, but operate as internment camps.
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly alleged the camps, in China’s north west Xinjiang region, were there to indoctrinate Uyghurs and other Muslims since 2017.
Testimonies from prisoners at the camp talk of beatings and torture and poor treatment leading to many deaths.
Detainees have alleged widespread sexual abuse, including forced steralisation and forced abortions to cut birth rates.
The statement by the religious leaders said 80 per cent of Uyghur women of childbearing age had experienced forced sterilisation and birth prevention.
This could amount to genocide under the 1948 Genocide Convention.
“The clear aim of the Chinese authorities is to eradicate the Uyghur identity,” the religious leaders’ statement said.
“China’s state media has stated that the goal is to ‘break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections and break their origins’.
“As the Washington Post put it, ‘It’s hard to read that as anything other than a declaration of genocidal intent’.
“High-level Chinese government documents speak of ‘absolutely no mercy’.”
The religious leaders called on parliaments, governments and jurists to investigate the Uyghur plight.
“As faith leaders, we are neither activists nor policy-makers,” the statement said.
“But we have a duty to call our communities to their responsibilities to look after their fellow human beings and act when they are in danger.
“In the Holocaust some Christians rescued Jews. Some spoke out. To quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil … Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act”. After the Holocaust, the world said: “Never Again.”
“Today, we repeat those words “Never Again”, all over again.
“We stand with the Uyghurs.
“We also stand with Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners, and Christians throughout China who face the worst crackdown on freedom of religion or belief since the Cultural Revolution.
“We urge people of faith and conscience everywhere to join us: in prayer, solidarity, and action to end these mass atrocities. We make a simple call for justice, to investigate these crimes, hold those responsible to account and establish a path towards the restoration of human dignity.”
Estimates vary on how many people are kept in the camps, but there were at least one million people and potentially upwards of three million.