In the Seanad yesterday (8th October) I was pleased to support a Motion which called on the Irish Government to recognise the plight of the Uyghur people of Xinjiang, who are being persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party through a process of “cultural genocide and racial elimination”.
I detailed just some of the horrific practices faced by the Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang:
“Every day, the Uyghur people face video surveillance of their streets, confiscation of their passports, complete interdiction of their capacity to communicate with anyone outside of China, arbitrary detention… these people are shipped around China in trains, to be cheap labour… they are subject to a regime which deprives them of the capacity to determine the size of their own families, with some having been subjected to sterilisation, while others have been bullied into abortions.”
The Beijing government refers to these camps as “vocational education and training centres” - not since ‘Arbeit macht frei’ was cynically written on the gates of German concentration camps has any set of camps ever been so misdescribed.
The stark reality of the situation is that millions of people are brought into these camps, where their families are broken up. Children are sent to orphanages, where they are taught to speak Mandarin Chinese. People are re-educated so that their so-called bad tendencies, which usually means the adoption of Uyghur culture, giving their children Uyghur names and exercising their rights to practise their Muslim faith, are educated out of them.
China has successfully leveraged its economic power to ensure that its barbaric practices go widely unpunished by the international community. Our own country has kowtowed to the Five-starred Red Flag in our relations with Taiwan. Two years ago, TDs and senators were written to, being reminded that the "One China" policy was in place, and that the People's Republic of China was "the only legitimate representative” of any and all territories it lays claim to.
It was a warning that any association of any kind whatsoever with the Taiwan Government would, in some respects, amount to a serious endangerment of Ireland's policy goals with regard to its relationship with the People's Republic of China.
I reject that advice. If wolf warrior Chinese diplomats can use economic power to threaten and cajole other people in the world into subjection and silence on these matters, we should be willing to take a stance regardless of any cold winds from Beijing with regard to exports of agricultural produce and the like to that country.
If we are to be at all driven by our values in our external relations, we must be conscious of the huge injustice involving not only cultural genocide, but racial elimination, that is going on in Xinjiang. Although there are not ovens and gas chambers there, there is everything short of them. These people are being deprived of every possible human right.
Ireland has a proud history of supporting the protection of human rights across the world, particularly in developing countries. It is now time for our country to use all available trade and diplomatic channels, including the United Nations Security Council, to insist on the observance of basic human rights protections for the Uyghur Muslim population and for all citizens of the People’s Republic of China.