Last summer, I wrote for this site on why the UK should offer asylum to the oppressed people of Hong Kong. As I explained at the time, there was a strong moral case for doing so: it would be wrong to turn a blind eye to protestors being brutalised by the Chinese state simply for asking for the rights and freedoms we in the west take for granted.
What’s more, Hong Kong’s loss would be the UK’s gain. There would be an influx of hard-working and highly educated people who would help to plug our skills gap. There would also be the added bonus that these people had experienced the horrors of socialism and so would be unlikely to vote for similar policies in the UK.
I stand by that article. The UK should offer asylum to everyone in Hong Kong who requests it. There is, however, an even more sinister situation now unfolding in China which requires action from the UK.
The way in which the Muslim population is being treated by the Chinese government is utterly appalling. Over one million of them have been rounded up and placed in internment camps. Reports of what goes on in these camps are truly chilling.
Muslims are forced to renounce their faith and partake in activities that go against their religion, such as eating pork. There are also reports that female detainees are routinely raped by male guards and that many are killed, with their organs harvested.
The UK must not turn a blind eye to this situation. People must be free to believe what they want and to practice their religion without fear of persecution. A state depriving its citizens of their liberty without due process and for spurious reasons, subjecting them to cruel and degrading treatment, must be internationally recognised as unacceptable.
China took positive steps in the 1970s by embracing more market-friendly economic policies. As a result, the country has enjoyed huge economic growth and tens of millions of people have been lifted out of a life of poverty and subsistence.
There is, however, a huge amount still to do. It’s great that China has started to embrace economic freedom, but it must also offer liberty in other areas as well such as freedom of religion. Ultimately, the state should abandon the last remnants of its socialist tyranny and allow the people to decide who governs them.
Until we achieve this, and until the oppression of the Muslim population and other religious minorities ceases, the British government should lead the way in condemning the Chinese government and urging it to implement reforms. It should draw attention to the ongoing abuses in China and work with other countries to exert diplomatic pressure.
However, we should go much further than merely condemning the Chinese government. It should offer asylum to every Muslim in China. They should be given the right to live, work and study here, for many of the same reasons as Hongkongers.
The main reason, of course, is that it is the right and necessary thing to do. The Muslim population of China is facing dreadful persecution. The UK should do all it can to offer a home to people who are being oppressed for their beliefs. To stand idly by while a minority is being persecuted would be immoral and could be interpreted as offering tacit support to the policy of the Chinese government.
This move could also help to strengthen our support of other persecuted minorities around the world. For example, Boris Johnson used his New Year message to draw attention to the plight of persecuted Christians around the world. He was right to do so given that approximately 245 million Christians face high levels of persecution as a result of their faith.
The UK government should also put diplomatic pressure on countries which persecute Christians, as well as offering asylum to those concerned. Showing that we take the oppression of Muslims as seriously as the oppression of Christians would help the government to make serious progress in protecting the rights of all religious minorities.
Moreover, as is the case with Hong Kong, China’s loss would be the UK’s gain. Immigrants bring immense economic and cultural benefits to their host country. The UK has the opportunity to offer a home to hard-working and highly skilled immigrants who will make a contribution to our country.
The situation facing persecuted Muslims in China is unacceptable. Britain should take a stand on the world stage by condemning the actions of the Chinese government and offering asylum to those being persecuted.