‘Boycotts give hope to Uighurs’ – a time for solidarity not apathy from labour movement

Sir, – I was quite surprised to read Ruairí Quinn's nonchalant assessment of the human rights atrocities being committed in Xinjiang against the Uighur people ("China's cotton trade: Boycotts give hope to Uighurs but companies take a hit", Business, July 9th).

Mr Quinn suggests that South African apartheid cannot be compared with “what is happening today with the second largest economy in the world, [one] that is probably going to be the largest”.

Detailed reports from Amnesty International highlight the state of affairs at present: hundreds of thousands of people interned, perhaps one million people placed in so-called “re-education camps”, the widespread incidence of torture, the use of slave labour, and forced sterilisation.

These abuses constitute crimes against humanity.


In March 2021, the European Union imposed its first set of sanctions on Beijing in three decades. This move was accompanied by similar action by the UK, Canada, and the US. This change in European policy toward China, the EU’s largest trading partner, is considerable and reflects the seriousness of the situation in Xinjiang.

Mr Quinn describes himself as a socialist, “in the Labour Party sense of that word”, but “would have no respect for anybody who would come into Ireland and start telling us how we should run our affairs”.

We should not discredit and devalue these blatant atrocities for fear of offending some “other systems that have emerged”. Nor should we be shunted into silence given the size of the Chinese economy. If criticism of human rights abuses were dependent on economic hegemony, would there have been a whimper of support for the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1960s?

The labour movement has always been outward looking and internationalist, giving voice to the oppressed and the marginalised, irrespective of national borders. Now is a time for solidarity not apathy. – Yours, etc,



Harold’s Cross

Dublin 6W.