Issue 1, Volume 18
At the end of 1945, the world watched in shock, as Allied troops liberated the Nazi concentration camps used to house Jews and other ‘undesirables’. The emaciated, sickly figures emerging from internment horrified the world. Yet more horrifying, were those who were never to re-emerge from Nazi captivity, their bodies packed into mass graves, or their ashes tainting the air of Eastern Europe.
Some of the most enduring images of the Holocaust, and some of the most chilling, were photographs of mounds of human hair, shorn from prisoners as they entered the camps. Shaving the hair of prisoners helped to maintain their hygiene, and break their spirits. However, for many Jews, it also served a special purpose, as it prevented them from adhering to the requirements of their religion. Shaving was a spiritual blow.
In the wake of this singular tragedy, the civilised world set itself a grave commitment: never again.
Never again would the world watch on, as genocide destroyed a people. Never again would we stand idle, when we witnessed crimes of such horror, such utter barbarity, that to suffer them was to sacrifice a part of our very humanity.
The world has not always lived up to this ideal. Shamefully, the scourge of genocide has not yet been wiped from the Earth. We failed the Tutsis of Rwanda, the Kurds of Iraq, the minority populations of the former Yugoslavia, and others. Of the Tutsis alone, some eight-hundred-thousand men, women, and children were butchered. Our collective failure to prevent these atrocities stains us all, and the road to absolution is a long one. Never again, we promised ourselves, and we must never again allow ourselves to be complacent about this promise.
However, as soul-crushingly devastating as each of these catastrophes were, they are all dwarfed by the scale of the latest disaster, unfolding at this very moment.
In a chilling echo of the shorn Jews in Nazi custody, US customs last month seized over twelve tonnes of human hair. Bound for American wig shops, this hair had originated in Western China. It had been forcibly removed from Uyghur prisoners in Chinese labour camps, and likely manufactured into wigs by those same detainees.
This is far from the worst treatment meted out to the Uyghurs, an ethnic and religious minority in China. Up to one million people have been loaded onto trains, and now languish in ‘education’ camps run by the Chinese Government, where they are brainwashed into worshipping Xi Jinping and the Communist Party. Many are forced to labour as slaves, manufacturing goods for export. Families are separated as a matter of course, and untold numbers of children have been ripped from their parents, to be raised in Party-run facilities.
Darker details of the Uyghur plight have also begun to filter out into the world. Prisoners have reported torture, both physical and psychological. Some have reported having their organs forcibly harvested, an accusation consistent with credible allegations of Chinese forced organ harvesting of another religious minority – Falun Gong practitioners. Women have reported being forced to have abortions, and being forcibly sterilised.
These atrocities are designed with one goal in mind: the erasure of the Uyghur people. In other words, genocide.
These crimes are bad enough, but need we wait for the other shoe to drop? The Nazis, after all, did not start out murdering Jews. Initially, they were merely interned, and forced to work. So too, were Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge. The spectre of Death is shadowing Western China, and it is incumbent upon the world to exorcise it.
Naturally, Chinese apologists have some well-worn rebuttals to criticisms coming from Australian mouths. What right do we have, many ask, to criticise China fighting ‘Islamist terrorism’, as Australia herself has done aggressively these past two decades? This argument is so facile as to be laughable. Perhaps, Western countries might have had more success fighting domestic terrorism by rounding up every member of certain groups, and torturing them. However, such a move is so utterly evil, that its consideration has not even merited discussion. The Communist Party has made that nightmare a reality.
Some Party apologists are even so bold as to claim that Australian border protection policies preclude us from commenting on the situation. It is truly astonishing that proponents of such a flagrant false-equivalence can speak with straight faces. Of course, both things can be true. Australia can be violating the human rights of several hundred offshore detainees, and China can be enslaving over one million people, stealing their organs, and destroying their reproductive systems. The comparison is utterly transparent in its disingenuousness.
So too, is the argument heard from many Australian business people and political leaders, that we simply rely on China too heavily to take a stand on this issue. That, allow me to be blunt, our mining incomes, and the presence of cheap plastic crap on supermarket shelves, means that we should turn a blind eye to the very worst crimes humans are capable of committing.
Australia, and every single Australian, including the members of this law school, must take a stand on this issue. Whether that means boycotting Chinese goods, or pressuring our political leaders to sanction China, we mustn’t slip into apathetic complacency. To do so is to sell out our humanity for a short-term economic gain. Chinese economic largess in Australia won’t last forever. The black mark on our moral pride, however, is eternal.
Standing against the Chinese Communist Party will have consequences. There will be retaliation from the butchers in Beijing, whether it be diplomatic, economic, or even an armed confrontation. However, we should weather it safe in the knowledge that we are doing the morally right thing. Some things simply must be done, no matter the cost. There are some things worth sacrificing for. There are some things, even, worth dying for. To prevent a genocide is emphatically one of those things.
Oscar Keswani is the pseudonym of a JD student.