Uighur activist urges Australia to take tougher stance against China


Uighur activist Rushan Abbas, who compared China’s authoritarianism to the Nazi Germany, has urged Australian MPs to take a stronger stance against the Chinese government.

Abbas, who held a roundtable talks with MPs in Canberra on Thursday at the US Embassy on the plight of the Uighur Muslim minority in western China’s Xinjiang province, said that “modern day” concentration camps holding as many as 3 million Uighurs were a case of “history repeating itself”.

The Liberal MP Andrew Hastie sparked a storm of controversy when he penned an opinion piece in the Nine newspapers in August, comparing the west’s complacency about China to France’s response to the rise of authoritarian Germany in the lead up to the second world war.

Abbas, the executive director of the Campaign for Uyghurs, said she strongly backed the comparison, saying the first German concentration camps were built in 1933 while the country was still trading with other democratic countries. The first Uighur camp was built in 2014, Abbas said.

“Most of the economically independent or rich countries, they continued to do business with Germany, they enabled Germany’s economy to murder more people,” Abbas said.

“Continuing to do business with China is enabling China to murder my people.”

Abbas, whose sister and aunt were both abducted and detained in camps a week after she first went public as an advocate in the US in late 2018, said Uighurs were being detained because “our religion, our culture, our language is being targeted as a mental ideological disease”.

Abbas said she had not heard from her sister since she was abducted, saying: “I don’t even know if my sister is still alive.”

Labeling the mass detention of Uighurs as the “unprecedented atrocity of the century”, Abbas hit out at western countries, including Australia, for being too timid in the face of China’s authoritarianism.

She urged Australia to do more to raise human rights concerns in its dealings with China, saying the west could use its combined economic might to pressure China. She also called for the international community not to “reward” China with the hosting rights for the Winter Olympics in 2022 and the FIFA World Cup in 2021.

“Freedom is not free – any kind of doing the right thing comes with a price,” Abbas said.

On the call to strip China of the Olympic Games hosting rights, Abbas also pointed to the historical comparison of Berlin’s hosting of the 1936 Olympic Games, which at the time faced calls for a boycott, and was used by the Nazi regime as a platform for rampant nationalist propaganda.

“The Olympic Games is a celebration of the differences and unity in the world, bringing together all different regions, different nations … a country holding 3 million innocent people because of their race and religion is the last country qualified to host such a game.” (Source: The Guardian)