China’s treatment of the Uighurs has disturbing parallels with Germany’s first genocide, says Konstantin McKenna in Foreign Policy. In 1903 the Herero people in German South West Africa (modern-day Namibia) rebelled against the colonisers, killing more than 100 German settlers. The “bull-headed” Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha was appointed to subdue them. In 1904 he ordered “the summary execution of all Herero men”, and drove the women and children into the desert to die. Up to 111,000 people were killed before public exposure of the atrocities – and Germany’s “horrified” civilian government – brought von Trotha to heel.
It’s a similar story in 21st-century China, another “pre-eminent rising power”. From 2009 to 2014, a series of riots in Xinjiang province by Uighurs killed hundreds of Han Chinese, the country’s ethnic majority, and deeply embarrassed the Chinese Communist party. The CCP shipped in Chen Quanguo, fresh from repressing Tibet. His policies stopped short of extermination, but have included concentration camps, slave labour and forced sterilisation. “Foreign outrage” has now softened the crackdown, but only slightly.
Germany’s road from the crimes of 1904 to Nazism was a long one. Time and again it spurned chances “to turn away from a festering cult of mass violence”. China is on a similar course, and only it can avert a similarly terrible future.
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