Faith Leaders: China’s Persecution of Uyghurs One of Most Egregious ‘Since Holocaust’

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In their strongly worded declaration, the faith leaders — who include Catholic bishops and cardinals, Protestant bishops and pastors, Buddhist leaders, Muslim Imams, and ten Jewish rabbis — underscore the evil of “the potential genocide of the Uyghurs and other Muslims in China” under the auspices of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

While many persecutions and mass atrocities are occurring around the world, the plight of the Uyghurs is unique, the leaders insist, and if allowed to continue with impunity, it “calls into question most seriously the willingness of the international community to defend universal human rights for everyone.”

“At least one million Uyghur and other Muslims in China are incarcerated in prison camps facing starvation, torture, murder, sexual violence, slave labour and forced organ extraction,” the statement reads. “Outside the camps, basic religious freedom is denied. Mosques are destroyed, children are separated from their families, and acts as simple as owning a Holy Quran, praying or fasting can result in arrest.”

The faith leaders also note how China has set up the “world’s most intrusive surveillance state” and has used it to carry out “a campaign of forced sterilization and birth prevention targeting at least 80% of Uyghur women of childbearing age,” an action that could constitute genocide, according to the 1948 Genocide Convention.

In July, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) conducted a virtual hearing on “the Chinese government’s use of surveillance and data analytic technology to oppress religious groups,” noting that the Chinese government has created “an Orwellian surveillance state with an unprecedented ability to gather private information about its citizens.”

Among the most startling testimony brought forward at the hearing, Vice-Chair Tony Perkins declared that the Communist Party uses artificial intelligence systems “that can reportedly combine information from video surveillance, facial and voice recognition, GPS tracking, and other data in order to track certain religious communities.”

During the past decade, the CCP has installed hundreds of millions of surveillance cameras across the country, particularly in Xinjiang and Tibet, “where facial recognition systems distinguish Uyghurs and Tibetans from members of other ethnic groups,” Perkins said. “This is the first time a government is known to have intentionally used artificial intelligence for racial profiling.”

In their August statement, the faith leaders argue that the clear aim of the Chinese authorities “is to eradicate the Uyghur identity.”

China’s state media has stated that the goal is to “break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections and break their origins,” the statement declares, which is hard to read as anything other than a declaration of genocidal intent.

“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,” the leaders declare.