Xinjiang Shows We Haven't Learnt a Thing from Auschwitz | Opinion

This year marked 75 years since the end of the Holocaust and 25 years after the Srebrenica massacre, the worst mass killing on Europe's soil since the Holocaust.

The Spanish philosopher George Santayana famously said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Yet today, right before our eyes, another genocide is unfolding in China, as the world again stands idly by in deafening silence and cold indifference.

In the western Chinese province of Xianjiang, an ancient Muslim community of approximately 12 million known as the Uyghurs has been subjected to some of the most horrific and unspeakable crimes at the hands of China's ruthless communist regime.

From forced sterilizations, abortions and intrusive birth prevention, the population growth rates in the two largest Uyghur prefectures fell by 84% between 2015 and 2018.

According to Dr. Adrian Zenz, one of the world's leading scholars on Chinese government policy on minorities, the birth rate in Xinjiang has continued to plummet, falling nearly 24 percent last year, compared to just 4.2 percent nationwide.

The horror doesn't end there, however.

Over a million Uyghurs have now been detained by China in camps, where they are starved, abused, tortured, electrocuted, raped and even killed, according to the U.S. State Department.

Sickeningly, in Orwellian fashion, the Chinese government calls these facilities "vocational training centers." In reality, however, they are more aptly compared to concentration camps.

China claims these measures are necessary because the Uyghurs have been involved in domestic terror and therefore need to be "re-educated." However, there is precious little credible evidence to support that—and none to justify the sweeping repression taking place.

Just when you thought China's brutality could not shock any further, chilling footage emerged last week of Uyghurs, with heads shaven, being blindfolded, shackled and herded onto trains, headed for these camps.

I am loath to make Holocaust comparisons, especially as one whose family both survived and perished during this darkest of chapters in modern human history, but it is impossible not to draw such parallels in the face of overwhelming evidence of state-sponsored ethnic cleansing and genocide by China's Communist regime.

The main difference today, though, is that during the Holocaust, the Allies claimed they did not know about Auschwitz, whereas China's wanton brutality is unfolding in full view, right before us in real time.

To its credit, the United States is, thus far, the only country that has been prepared to stand up to China and take any kind of meaningful action.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called Chinese government actions in Xianjiang the "stain of the century," and asserted that China is "in a league of its own" on human rights violations.

The Treasury Department has also imposed Magnitsky sanctions on some of the Chinese officials responsible for these crimes, while President Trump has signed into law the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, giving the U.S. an even greater array of tools to target Chinese abuses—which the administration has signaled its preparedness to use.

Meantime, there is currently a bipartisan bill before Congress to ensure that goods made with forced labor by the Uyghurs in Xinjiang do not enter the U.S. market.

The next, and perhaps most powerful step, must be to invoke the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide against China, which is a signatory.

However, one cannot help but ask, where is the rest of the international community?

The Muslim world has completely turned its back to the cries of their own people being slaughtered. As Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council suggests, they have been entirely outmaneuvered by China, their silence bought with billions of dollars in supposed aid and investment.

Enlightened Europe, which recently managed to secure over 1,000 parliamentarians to sign a letter condemning Israel's proposed application of sovereignty over the West Bank, has not been able to muster more than a whimper when it comes to China.

Meantime, the United Nations, which was created in the wake of the Holocaust to serve a bulwark against genocide and crimes against humanity, has likewise been deafeningly silent, with China's Security Council veto guaranteeing virtual impunity. At the same time, in an abominable act of injustice, China is now set to be elected to the U.N. Human Rights Council, according to U.N. Watch.

In his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel warned us "there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."

Here, too, we cannot remain silent, thereby giving China impunity for its crimes. We must speak up for the Uyghur people.

Arsen Ostrovsky is an international human rights lawyer (@Ostrov_A).

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​