A protest outside the Chinese Embassy in London on 5 February indicted the “ethnic cleansing” and “cultural genocide” of the Uyghur people, a Turkic Muslim oppressed group in China.
Many Uyghurs see their battle as one for self-determination for what they call “East Turkestan, but the Chinese authorities have clamped down heavily. About 70 people came, mostly Uyghurs. Chants included “Freedom for East Turkestan” and “End the Torture”, and emphasised that the protest was about “being human, and everyone’s concern”, not about religion.
Under the pretext of fighting “terrorism” — after some Islamist attacks — the whole of the Uyghur people have been criminalised. About a million have been imprisoned without trial in internment camps. Two or three million more have been subjected to forced drinking of alcohol, eating of pork, shaving of beards, etc. The repression includes physical and mental torture, harassment, identity checks, confiscation of passports, public humiliation and many other “strict surveillance” measures.
Several members of the London Uyghur community gave moving accounts of their efforts to demand the return of their ‘disappeared’ brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers and exposing the past massacres sanctioned by the Chinese authorities. Dave Ball spoke and read out a solidarity statement from Finchley and Golders Green Labour Party. The CLP calls for an end to the mass detentions and repression of the Uyghur people, and demands that the Labour leadership (Shadow Cabinet, NEC) support the rights of the Uyghurs.
The protest was called under the “umbrella” of the International Observatory of Human Rights, an NGO that insists on an “independent”, non-partisan approach, expressed in its slogan “Stop China’s Unethical Cleansing of Uyghurs”. But the Chinese repression of the Uyghur people is due not to the absence of ethics but to the presence of Stalinism.
The Chinese Communist Party, right from taking power in 1949, adopted a rigid top-down approach, with bureaucratic rule through blindly obedient and undemocratically appointed apparachiks. That thoroughly anti-socialist and anti-communist system has produced the repression of the Uyghurs — not simply moral laxity, turpitude or unethical behaviour on the part of individuals. We will work to organise solidarity and support for the forces within and beyond China that are struggling against oppression and to establish a real socialist system that will put the working class in the driving seat.