British MPs have been told that China’s human rights abuse in detaining more than one million Uyghur Muslims in “re-education” camps is bigger than the scale of Chairman Mao’s era.
The UK foreign affairs committee have been advised by leading academics not to remain silent over China’s human rights abuse against Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang region.
The United Nations (UN) have estimated that at least one million Uyghur Muslims have been forcibly detained in detention centres, which Amnesty International has compared to “wartime concentration camps”.
Former inmates have stated that they were physically and mentally tortured into denouncing Islam and swearing allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party.
Professor Steve Tsang, who is the director of the London School of Oriental Studies, told MPs on the committee: “Ever since the end of Chairman Mao’s era in 1976, and probably including the period of hard military crackdown in 1989, we have not seen the scale of human rights abuse that we are seeing today in Xinjiang.
“I think if we believe in our values, in our system – even though there’s probably not much we can actually do to change the situation in China – it would be wrong for us to remain silent on the subject.”
China had consistently denied the existence of the camps until last October, and has since claimed it is detaining people guilty of crimes in “vocational education centres”.
Professor Eva Pils from King’s College London argued that China had strategically presented the persecution of Uyghur Muslims as an anti-terrorism response to the threat of “Islamist extremism”.
She said: “The grave human rights violations that Professor Tsang was alluding to in my view almost certainly … include not only arbitrary detention of people in these camps but also the use of torture to ‘transform’ them, to ‘de-extremify’ them.
“That, in my view, especially as we have credible evidence that it happens at this very vast scale, is extremely concerning.”
Communist China has received widespread criticism from western governments over its treatment of Uyghur Muslims.