SINCE 2001, the Government has invited British society to observe January 27 each year as Holocaust Memorial Day as this date is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops in 1945.

Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) is intended to provide an opportunity for reflection. The mass murder of millions of people of different ethnic, cultural, religious and political groups in more than one genocide provided the darkest side of 20th Century human history. While the remit of the day is wide-reaching, its focus remains the Holocaust.

But HMD is not just for reflection – it is also a spur for action. This year leading figures in our country’s Jewish community have called for HMD to be used to focus on the persecution of Uighur Muslims in China, saying Jews have the “moral authority and moral duty” to speak out.

In a recent letter to the Prime Minister, Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “As a community, we are always extremely hesitant to consider comparisons with the Holocaust.”

However, there are similarities between what is reported to be happening in China and what happened in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, she said. Urging Boris Johnson to take action, she said violations of the Uighurs’ human rights were “shaping up to be the most serious outrage of our time”.

Uighurs and other Muslims are reported to face starvation, torture, murder, sexual violence, slave labour and forced organ extraction in what the Chinese Government describes as “re-education” camps. Last week the US state department declared that such treatment represented genocide and crimes against humanity.

The need for urgent action to remedy this situation is clear to all, with the exception – it seems – of the UK government.

Last week, our government narrowly defeated a move requiring it to reconsider any trade deal with a country found by the high court to be committing genocide. The genocide amendment was devised by the independent peer Lord Alton as an attempt to break the current situation whereby international courts are unable to make rulings on genocide since nation states such as China do not recognise the relevant courts. Alton had proposed the UK high court be able to make a preliminary determination that the government would then have to consider before entering into trade deals with companies or countries profiting from crimes against humanity.

The measure – which seeks to protect Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province – had the backing of the Conservative Muslim Forum, the British Board of Jewish Deputies and a large array of Christian groups. Despite support by a cross party alliance of MPs, the amendment was opposed by the Government and was narrowly defeated by 319 votes to 308. Responding to the defeat, Lord Alton said: “The fight does not end here. We will continue to do all we can to ensure that Uighurs and other victims of alleged genocide have a route to justice through UK courts.”

In its defeat of the Alton amendment, the Government has chosen to give succour to the perpetrators of genocide and blocked an opportunity for them to be held to account.

When the amendment returns to the Commons and the choice comes before MPs again, may they listen to the millions of voices lost to the Holocaust and genocides of the last century and act to end the suffering of a people.

L The Reverend Arun Arora is the vicar of St Nicholas’ Church in Durham