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The Sleepwalking Society: How To Wake Up 

What You Can Do To Stop The Uyghur Genocide

Genocide is, and will always be, a deeply provocative term. It is inextricably linked with the most heinous crimes in all of human history, resonating perilous imagery of mass graves, indistinguishable victims and fit-for-slaughter infrastructure. We, the people, are morally comforted by the notion that, if – god forbid- genocide was to resurface itself, we would be so infallibly educated on the horrors of once, that genocide would be so unbelievably conspicuous, that our immaculately objective media would bring the issue to the fore, it would simply be impossible – perhaps even negligent – not to take action against what was transpiring. Yet, with gross hypocrisy, the world, moreover the West, is currently sleepwalking the Uyghur population of China into extermination at the behest of the Chinese government, simply by remaining complicit.


In some ways, the 21st century Uyghur genocide is the most discernible human rights violation since the Nazi holocaust. Indeed, the Chinese government has deployed a state-wide transformative programme which renders the nation nothing short of a techno-terror state, installing an arsenal of facial recognition technology, censoring digital activity and, with the seeds of a black-mirror style points-based social system in the making, the basic freedoms of the Chinese people – specifically ethnic minorities – are being insidiously curtailed. CNBC reports that “China’s facial recognition database includes nearly every one of China’s 1.4 billion citizens”, and with this comes the inception of the world’s first ever technocratically governed persecution, with over 1.3 million confirmed Uyghurs being imprisoned in ‘re-education’ camps.


See, what initially crossed my mind was “yes, this is terribly awful – tragic even” but “what am I supposed to do, an inconsequential needle embedded in a haystack of supine politicians who strut the corridors of power with a sickening sense of impunity”. Fear not, because there is so much you can do.


  1. Boycott the brands implicated in the genocide


Invariably, profiteering and genocide work in tandem, and this is no exception. Many of the big-boy fashion magnates operate their production lines overseas in a process known as outsourcing in order to shrink down the overall costs of mass production. And, rather unsurprisingly, the cheapest available labour is slave labour, insofar that global fashion brands pay a negligible fee to the Xinjiang authorities in return for access to a vast labour pool of Uyghur captives. These brands include, but are not limited to, Adidas, BMW, Calvin Klein, H&M, Lacoste, Nike, The North Face, Zara and Tommy Hilfiger, but to name a few. So, the obvious solution is to boycott these brands, but it is clearly not that simple; it’s like the platitude “you participate in a capitalist society, therefore you must be happy with all its consequences”. Instead of trying to dismantle these ends – which may take decades – decipher how to make your own means ethically sustainable. Buy second-hand clothes (Depop is a great platform to get started). Recycle your old clothing. Make your own clothes! This is not to launch a polemic against anyone who wears Nike, Adidas or any of the aforementioned brands, as I do myself, but try to encourage conscious, ethical thinking about where your items of clothing are produced, and whom this production may benefit.


  1. Sign petitions, write letters


I know what you’re thinking: “petitions never achieve anything; they are futile, useless”. To an extent, this is true. Petitions are seldom a paper ticket to freedom. But, crucially, they are fantastic mediums to help propagate a message, simultaneously satiating people’s moral hunger by signing the blank space and spreading the keynote message manifoldly. Myriad petitions can be found online, but if you have trouble finding some, follow the linktree in the bio of the @britsforuyghurs Instagram page.


Secondly, write letters to your local politicians; pester them, break their email inboxes, make it so that it is impossible for them to open their mail with their morning coffee without having the brazen phrase “Stop the Uyghur Genocide” glare them indifferently in the face. Once again, letter templates can be found in the same linktree mentioned above.


  1. Mobilise yourself and your friends


It is nothing short of objective fact that we live in an age defined by active protest. Take the BlackLivesMatter movement, for instance, who have effectively conveyed their anti-racism agenda, or the Youth Climate Strikes, which have transmitted worldwide and placed the issue of climate change and climate justice on the political table. In societies governed by exhausting legal and political bureaucracy, the agency of the individual matters. Heretofore, there exists no coordinated global wave of protest denouncing the egregious Uyghur genocide: so, let’s try start one. Follow the Uyghur Congress on social media platforms, empower the voice of emancipated Uyghurs worldwide, and join a local protest group, or even start one yourself!


So here it is: we are living, witnessing and spectating one of the worst human rights atrocities since the holocaust of the 1940’s. Everything must come to an end; all Empires fall, eventually. So, the proposition is this: when asked by future generations “what did you do to help end the Uyghur genocide?”, will you be able to answer?


Follow @britsforuyghurs for more updates.
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