OPINION: Never again can never again be left to chance

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

OPINION: Never again can never again be left to chance

Dr Kate Ferguson and Olivia Marks-Woldman reflect on the persecution of Uyghur Muslims in China, and why it's time to take a stand, inspired by recent Jewish history

Screenshot from Twitter of alleged Uyghur prisoners, blindfolded and cuffed being loaded on to trains. (Via Jewish News)
Screenshot from Twitter of alleged Uyghur prisoners, blindfolded and cuffed being loaded on to trains. (Via Jewish News)

Our world often feels fragile and vulnerable and we cannot be complacent. We all have a responsibility to learn where prejudice and identity-based hostility can lead – if unchecked and normalised.

These words, spoken by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust Chairperson, Laura Marks, opened the UK ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day in January this year.

We repeat them now, because identity-based persecution is continuing, unchecked, in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, where Uighur Muslims are subject to horrific oppression. Verified footage of Uighur Muslims, blindfolded and herded onto trains, has been published and shared widely online. Robust reports have detailed the slave labour conditions under which Uighurs are forced to work – often for our high street brands such as Nike. Verified photos have been circulated of tonnes of hair shaved from Uighur women.

As chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, and co-executive director of Protection Approaches, we know the Holocaust and more recent genocides are remembered for a purpose – to learn from the past and to take steps towards a more just, safer world. Remembrance of these difficult periods should inspire us to action today.

We know that the millions of people who engage with Holocaust Memorial Day learn more about genocide, empathise more – especially with those from different backgrounds – and are inspired to take action.

The Holocaust was unique, as all atrocities are. But there are parallels and patterns that cannot, and must not, be ignored. The situation in the Xinjiang province of China is abhorrent and the parallels with Nazi Germany, such as train deportations and the removal of human hair, seem stark.

Thoughtful remembrance of the past helps us understand that atrocities are not inevitable; that they can, and must, be prevented.

Doing more to help prevent mass atrocities should not be contentious. Successive UK governments have reiterated their commitment to help prevent mass atrocities and whilst challenging the persecution of Uighur Muslims in China will take a concerted, global approach, the UK Government has many tools at its own disposal. Last year it set out for the first time its approach to preventing mass atrocities – a step which both our organisations fully support.

Dr Kate Ferguson (right) is the co-executive director of Protection Approaches. Olivia Marks-Woldman (left) is chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

A national atrocity prevention strategy would encourage consistency both within government and with UK partners, and it would ensure that UK policy makers consider how best to mitigate or prevent widespread loss of life. The commitment to learn from the past would be embedded in Britain’s embassies, in Ministers’ portfolios, and in Britain’s contributions abroad. Without such a strategy – without applying a framework of how best to help prevent future atrocities to the human rights crisis in Xinjiang or elsewhere – opportunities to influence and mitigate will always be missed.

We also wish to raise a point of caution. Preventing identity-based violence, whether hate crime or genocide, requires consistency. Robust condemnation of the atrocities in Xinjiang must never be conflated with anti-Chinese hate speech or divisive, jingoistic tropes – something unfortunately all too common following anxieties over Huawei and divisive rhetoric about the pandemic.

During this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration, the prime minister asked: “What happened to our resolve in the genocides that followed?” Mr Johnson has gone on to undertake the largest review of the UK’s foreign, defence and development policy since the end of the Cold War. This review is a rare moment to demonstrate the strength of its commitment to never again. It’s time to embed a national strategy of atrocity prevention in the heart of British international policy, as events in China have clarified. It must never again be left to chance.

  • Dr Kate Ferguson is the co-executive director of Protection Approaches. Olivia Marks-Woldman is chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: