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December 15, 2021 10:17 am
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Over 200 Jewish Organizations, Rabbis Ask Biden to ‘Act Now’ Against Chinese Persecution of Uyghurs

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A perimeter fence is constructed around what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Dabancheng in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

A letter to President Joe Biden signed by over 200 Jewish groups, synagogues, and individuals condemns Chinese policy toward ethnic Uyghurs, and calls on the president “to prioritize human rights in US policy toward China.”

The Uyghurs, a Muslim minority group from the Chinese province of Xinjiang, have been subjected to a years-long, state-sponsored campaign of mass incarceration, forced dislocation, child separation, and “reeducation” intended to suppress their culture and religion. In Jan. 2021, the US State Department labeled the persecution a genocide.

“As a community that acutely remembers times when we were persecuted and unable to teach our traditions to our children, and as we painfully recall the genocide that we suffered under Nazi rule, we know that we can and must speak out against this persecution and in support of the Uyghur community,” said the letter, obtained by the Axios news site.

“The US government has taken critical first steps by determining that the persecution of Uyghurs is a genocide and implementing sanctions on some perpetrators and facilitators of these abuses,” the letter continued. “But such a serious designation requires the US to do more, both unilaterally and with our allies.”

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Signatories included the American Jewish Committee and a number of local Jewish Community Relations Councils, 21 congregations from across the US, and scores of rabbis and community leaders.

“We therefore urge you and your administration to take the concrete steps recommended by a coalition of leading human rights organizations (such as countering Chinese government propaganda and strengthening sanctions) and to increase the number of Uyghurs admitted to the US as refugees,” said the letter.

“As Jews we know what happens when people remain silent amid such atrocities,” it added. “And let us be clear: the Chinese government is also targeting other ethnic and religious minorities, including Jews, Christians, Tibetans, and Mongols. Nothing parallels the persecution of Uyghurs — yet. We must speak out, and we must act now.”

The letter was spearheaded by the Washington, DC synagogue Adas Israel, whose rabbi, Aaron Alexander, told Axios, “What we’re looking for are very strong sanctions.”

“We want the United States to lead the way in creating the kind of brute force condemnation and excision from the world community until it stops,” he added.

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