A BBC broadcast last week reported that over a million Uighur Muslims have been detained in ‘re-education centres’ in Xinjianglangkawi/flickr

Content Note: This article contains some discussion of torture and sexual abuse.

An open letter by Stop Uighur Genocide Cambridge (SUG), calling for MPs to vote in favour of the genocide amendment, has been signed by over 100 students (as of 08/02), including members of the Jewish, African Caribbean, Sikh, Indian, Labour and Liberal societies.

The letter calls on students at the University to “speak up and take action...as Uighur Muslims in China are beaten if they refuse to renounce their faith, as Uighur women are sterilised and as children are separated from their parents.”

An amendment presented in the House of Commons last month (19/01) called for UK domestic courts to have the power to determine genocidal countries before the government makes trade deals with them. It was defeated by 319 votes to 308 in the government’s favour.

The amendment, originally proposed by Lord Alton, comes amidst concerns over a potential UK-China trade deal. Schona Jolly, chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, said at the time of the amendment’s defeat in the Commons: “Waiting for a judicial determination by an international court or body that genocide has been committed or is being committed, where it is not apparent that there is any likely or realistic route to such a determination, undermines the object and purpose of the obligation to prevent: to ensure, in so far as is possible, that genocide is never again committed.”

However, peers in the House of Lords subsequently overturned the decision in the Commons on a cross-party basis by 359 votes to 188 (02/02), thus forcing a further vote on the genocide amendment in the Commons, which is due to take place tomorrow (09/02).

Estimates suggest that more than one million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, China’s largest region, have been detained in “re-education centres” set up to “de-radicalise Uighurs and other Muslim minorities,” a BBC broadcast reported last week.

Last month, prior to his inauguration as US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken said that he believed the claims against China. “This genocide is ongoing” he noted in the statement, “we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state.”

In an investigative piece also published by the BBC last week, reporters revealed details of the sexual abuse and torture endured by women in Xinjiang camps through a series of testimonials. Separate investigations by the BBC suggest that “Uighurs are being used as forced labour.”

One woman, who was detained in these camps for 18 months, told the BBC: “You can’t tell anyone what happened [...] it is designed to destroy everyone’s spirit.”

China, in response to these claims, stated that “vocational education” centres had been set up as part of the country’s anti-terrorism efforts.


Mountain View

I am an Uighur who faced China’s concentration camps. This is my story.

Gil Rubin, the Ambassador for Stop Uighur, recounted to Varsity the survivor testimony of Mihrigul Tursun, a Uighur Muslim who claims to have spent ten months in three camps. He described it as “a harrowing call to arms on this issue and one of the first that [he] was exposed to”. He added that “we often become numb to the figures and statistics that get posted on social media, it’s important to put individual stories to those numbers.”

Speaking about the re-vote taking place in the House of Commons on the genocide amendment tomorrow (09/02), Joel Rosen, the External Affairs Officer for Cambridge University Jewish Society, said that he is “hopeful that MPs will vote with their consciences tomorrow.”

Rosen continued: “Although MPs annually sign a book of commemoration, this year they have the chance to vote with their feet in the wake of unspeakable crimes against humanity. What use is commemorating the past if we remain silent at present?”

He added that he found the process of wording the open letter “emotionally draining”, saying that it “reminded [him] of the most harrowing chapters of [his] family’s history.”