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We can’t stop the Uighur persecution

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

A chilling story in the recent memoir of a Uighur refugee “lingers in the mind”, says Andrew Sullivan in The Weekly Dish. A man in his seventies found an old Koran he had forgotten he owned. Possession of religious books is seen as “evidence of terroristic activities”, so he was afraid to hand it in and instead threw it into a river. But the authorities in Xinjiang have strung wire mesh under the bridges; they found the book, which had a copy of the old man’s ID card inside. He was tracked down and sentenced to seven years in prison. The concentration camps built to house Uighurs like this old man now have a capacity of one million people. We cannot know for sure what happens inside, but survivors report “torture, starvation, force-feeding, solitary confinement, and brainwashing”.

How should we react to “the greatest, systematic detention of a religious minority since the Second World War”? The first priority is not to look away. “This is happening. It is evil.” But the second is pragmatism. We can’t save the Uighurs, just as we couldn’t win a war over Taiwan (which is not a “vital US interest”, and we shouldn’t pretend it is). And we need China: unless Beijing signs off on drastic carbon reduction, “we are all f***ed”. We shouldn’t forget the Uighurs, but we need to live with the “cruel realities of global politics” rather than wish them away.