Major demonstrations were organised on Thursday outside of the Chinese embassy in London, in an attempt to address ongoing crimes committed by the Chinese regime against its minority population. Protesters demanded that the Chinese state immediately halt its ongoing genocide of ethnic Uyghur Muslims in the western autonomous region of Xinjiang, also known as East Turkestan.
The rally was organised by a coalition of over 50 British Muslim organisations. It was publicised under the umbrella campaign brand ‘Stand4Uyghurs’, and was held to coincide with celebrations that marked the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The coalition included major regional Islamic bodies, such as Finsbury Park Mosque, the East London Mosque, and the London Muslim Centre. Muslim media organisations such as Islam21c and the Islam Channel also played presiding roles in the diverse coalition.
Prominent members of the Muslim community and greater society also made appearances to address the ongoing ethnic cleansing in East Turkestan. They reiterated their concern for the Uyghur people, and articulated a message of global solidarity and moral support. Attendees included the founding Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain Sir Iqbal Sacranie, and the newly elected head of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) Raghad Altikriti.
The event’s campaign coordinator was the Chief Editor of Islam21c, Dr Salman Butt. He appreciated the increasing awareness of the international community regarding the ongoing ethnic cleansing and genocide. However, he noted the immense difficulties that people face when they attempt to take appropriate actions against these gross injustices. Dr Butt explained that this campaign’s chief aim is to tackle these shortcomings by not only motivating people to act, but by also providing them accurate information regarding the major crises occurring in East Turkestan. Butt stressed the importance of the event by making the following remarks:
“More and more people are finding out about the horrific treatment of the Uyghurs, but not many people know what to do to help them. This longer-term campaign aims to tackle three issues: motivate people by highlighting examples of how powerful their voice is; inform them with accurate information of who the Uyghurs are and what is happening to them; then channelling them towards effective action. As for the launch this Thursday, it is a rare opportunity to show moral support to Uyghurs and other oppressed minorities on a day which they themselves have reached out to us to make a stand on. It is the least we can do.”
Sh Haitham al-Haddad, Imam @AjmalMasroor, @Moazzam_Begg, Zishan AKA @smile2jannah, Imam Shakeel Begg, @DillyHussain88, @subboor18 Ahmad and many more joined the hundreds of UK Muslims who turned up to be the voice of their #Uyghur brothers and sisters.#Stand4Uyghurs pic.twitter.com/giDKuPRFAe
— Islam21c (@Islam21c) July 1, 2021
Abdulhakim Idris, the Inspector General of the World Uyghur Congress, echoed this sentiment with the following statement: “the CCP has killed more than 60 million of its own citizens during its reign. The systematic genocide against Uyghur Muslims is just one in a long line of death and state terror. The global Uyghur diaspora called on all people to use their voices to make this known to the world on this day in particular, and we are grateful to all those standing up and doing their part.”
A message of collective action
The main aims of Thursday’s rally included delivering a message of global unity and solidarity for the Uyghur Muslim ethnic group, and vocally condemning Chinese oppression. Guest speakers stressed that China could be effectively challenged through collective efforts. Despite the Chinese regime’s superpower status in the international community, diplomatic weight in the UN, and unparalleled economic might, normal people across the world can collectively make a difference by standing up to these oppressors. Regarding the potential leverage that the event held, Sir Sacranie stated the following:
“Today’s occasion is quite an important event where people from different backgrounds to express a very strong view that the atrocities and the acts of genocide that is taking place in East Turkestan cannot continue and we have wonderful scholars and speakers from different parts of the country expressing their views in a very strong manner and the key objective is that the message has to be conveyed to the Chinese government that these actions being carried out is not only against international but a breach of basic human rights.”
Here outside the Chinese embassy standing united with the Uyghur people! ✊🏽
— Friends of Al Aqsa (@FriendsofAlAqsa) July 1, 2021
The founding Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain believes that Muslim nations find themselves in a strategically strong position, and can exercise a level of influence on Beijing which would serve the interests of Uyghur Muslims. These Muslim states, according to Sacranie, enjoy strong political and economic ties with China. Because of their powerful standing vis-à-vis Beijing, these countries can effectively exert leverage over the regime and help bring an end to the Uyghur Muslim genocide in Xinjiang. Regarding the powerful position of Muslim states, Sir Sacranie made the following astute observations:
“Muslim countries are in a very strong position, they have very good relations with China, both politically and economically, and they can exercise that level of influence to advise China in a positive manner as they also have similar issues in their own countries regarding human rights abuses and if they do not take the appropriate actions such as sanctions against China then the oppressed communities within those Muslim countries will be able to rise against those governments so it would serve them well to urge China to end the Uyghur genocide.”
📍 We’re here protesting in London in solidarity with the Uyghur Muslims. pic.twitter.com/3ei7YL9ov5
— CAGE (@UK_CAGE) July 1, 2021
Raged Altikriti of the MAB emphasised how the Uyghurs have been suffering at the hands of the ruthless Beijing authorities for an extended period of time. She also expressed her sadness that many normal human beings trying to live customary lives in China are forced to face an Orwellian nightmare simply for belonging to a different ethnic group or religion. For many ethnic minority groups, every facet of the communist party’s espoused values is imposed through continuous state propaganda. In many cases, Muslim minority groups are even forced to consume prohibited substances, like pork, in their homes or concentration camps.
Regarding the plight of the Uyghur people, Altikriti delivered the following powerful remarks:
“For too many years our brothers and sisters – the Uyghur Muslims of East Turkestan – have been choking under the crushing boot of Chinese Tyranny. For too many years they have been packed into concentration camps and made to work in slave labor. The women have been hit mostly by the dire situation of this tyranny and brutality. Horrific stories as some survivors have managed to flee the country and raise the alarm with regards to the crimes taking place against their people.”
Amazing support outside the London Chinese embassy exposing the genocide of our fellow Uighur brother and sisters. Awesome to see different organisations coming together for this nessesary cause. #stand4uyghurs #stand4uighurs #Muslim pic.twitter.com/OEiGnEpts8
— smile2jannah (@smile2jannah) July 1, 2021
The MAB head mentioned in elaborate detail the scope of crimes committed by the Chinese regime against the Muslim minority group:
“The Uyghur women are facing sexual violence and systematic downgrades in their prisons. Forced sterilisations to decrease their birth rates and Uyghur women are forced into relationships with Han (non-Muslim) men while their husbands are in Chinese prisons. The accounts are too disturbing to be told in this demonstration but they are endless and they are emerging. For too many years their children have been stolen away, brainwashed and made to forget their history, their culture and their religion. For too many years their mosques have been destroyed, their prayers denied, their fasting disturbed and their Zakaat stolen.”
Systemic ethnic cleansing and genocide
The Chinese government has faced increasing criticism from the international community ever since mounting evidence revealed that Beijing is implementing an intense campaign of ethnic and cultural genocide against the Uyghur Muslims. Recent satellite imagery illustrates the rapid growth of mass concentration camps in the countrysides of Xinjiang. Furthermore, graphic stories of human rights abuses are growing in number.
The Chinese regime has defended its genocidal policies in the region, arguing that they are necessary coercive measures, which are aimed at tackling extremism and terrorism. This is a trope that is routinely used to mask and cover the gross human rights abuses being committed. As part of its cultural genocide, Beijing has destroyed centuries old mosques and Muslim graveyards, forcibly denied Muslims the right to practice their faith, and is even altering the traditional structure of Uyghur Muslim families.
The Chinese government has routinely denied the existence of concentration camps, despite there being clear evidence to the contrary. Up to a million Uyghur Muslims are believed to be detained in these camps. The regime claims that these are simply ‘re-educational centres’ which are aimed at reforming the local population and teaching them new skills. Survivors and former detainees of such camps, however, have spoken of brutal and inhuman acts of torture being committed at both the physical and psychological levels.
Earlier this year, a horrifying report published by the BBC revealed the extent to which rape is used against defenceless Uyghur Muslim women who find themselves detained in these concentration camps. The report shares horrific witness accounts of how Chinese soldiers and police officers viciously rape and torture Uyghur women in these camps. Furthermore, Uyghur Muslim women are forcibly sterilised, robbing them of their right to bear children. There can be no doubt that these policies appear to be aimed at curbing the Muslim population in the province. 
A ground-breaking report published in March this year revealed that every single article of the United Nations 1948 Genocide Convention has been violated by the Chinese state in its treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Subsequently, according to the report, there is no doubt that the Chinese state bears responsibility for the crimes of genocide and ethnic cleansing against members of its own population. .