Why is the West silent on the Uighurs?

by Matthew Eason

There has been a disturbing apathy in the Western world. What should be a major and continuing news story across national and international networks has been ignored or shunted into feature pieces which, while well meaning, have minimal impact on decision makers and the public – especially compared to consistent front pages, page leads or splashes.

Without a concerted campaign either through traditional media or now through the overinflated influence of social media, the public will remain unaware and the Government will remain unconcerned.

But why is this apathy disturbing? Many issues are successfully ignored and deemed unimportant by government and the media even when locally important – what makes this one different?

It is because so much of the world is caught up in the global importance of China both economically and militarily. There was a brief glimmer of hope when the UK announced its support for the newly oppressed Hong Kongers after China reneged on its treaty obligations. Now ministers have announced the removal of Huawei from UK networks. However, this has not translated into calling out the larger and more worrying scandal in China: the repression of the Uighur Muslims.

Compare and contrast the situation and response. There has been fairly consistent media outcry and coverage over China’s actions towards Hong Kong – the UK Government has responded. When well over one million Uighurs are forcibly detained and forced into “re-education” camps – do we hear much if at all from Western governments and major media outlets? There is certainly no consistent frontpage media coverage and no UK government response to this ongoing crisis.

Of course, some may consider this unfair on the media. But one only needs to consider the vast amount of airtime that is given to frankly trivial issues. Which should be a larger news story – the ongoing ethnic and religious cleansing of over one million people or headlines about masks three or four days a week. Of course, public health laws should be noticed and reported, but it does not inform the public when it is essentially the same story every other day.

Some people are speaking out and trying to ensure we change course and they are right to do so. We must change this apathetic situation; it is our moral imperative and duty that we kick up as much noise as possible and try and make the media and government see the error of their inaction. At the very least, UK citizens should sign this petition calling on the Government to impose sanctions on China over its mistreatment of Uighurs – which has now reached the number to obligate Parliament to have a debate.

Campaigns for government action appear to be gaining traction, with rumours of Trump’s administration considering sanctions and a shocking video of Uighurs being herded into carriages being circulated widely on social media. Moreover, there has been increased coverage of the Uighurs in recent days as reports of the Chinese government carrying out policies of forced birth control and sterilization as people are being brought into prominence.  

Yesterday’s scrutiny of the Chinese Ambassador should mark turning point of the UK’s non-response to the brutal repression of the Uighurs – but we must continue to push for action. The world still bears the scars of its failures in Rwanda, Kosovo and during the Holocaust. The West must wake up to this tragedy and there can be no hiding behind claims of a lack of intelligence. The attempted genocide of the Uighur population cannot and must not be ignored. Anything less is a clear moral failing and a betrayal of the free societies that we hold dear, the memory of those who died in WWII and those peoples who have faced genocide in the past. It is simply not good enough.

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