China has committed genocide — among other crimes against humanity — against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, an independent tribunal in London ruled on Thursday.
About the tribunal: Sir Geoffrey Nice, a British barrister and international human rights lawyer, founded the Uyghur Tribunal in 2020 at the request of Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress, to hold China accountable for its alleged crimes. The group, established with the help of the Coalition for Genocide Response, currently consists of lawyers, academics and businesspeople, according to The Guardian.
- The tribunal has no government backing and is not legally binding in any country. Thus, it has no powers to sanction China or Chinese officials.
- Despite this, the tribunal hopes to trigger action from politicians, civil society, non-government organizations and other capable individuals through the public release of evidence. As a result of the tribunal’s report on crimes committed against Uyghurs, a group of British Members of Parliament (MPs) has urged the Foreign Office to review its refusal to join the U.S. in declaring a genocide in Xinjiang, according to The Guardian.
Report findings: While no evidence of mass killings was found, the tribunal ruled that China has committed genocide against Uyghurs and other minorities through forced birth control, abortion and sterilization measures. They also held Beijing responsible for instances of rape, torture, persecution and forced disappearance, among other crimes.
- “On the basis of evidence heard in public, the tribunal is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the People’s Republic of China (PRC), by the imposition of measures to prevent births intended to destroy a significant part of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang as such, has committed genocide,” the 63-paged judgment reads. “China is one of the oldest continuous civilizations existing today and yet it faces determinations supported by evidence that would show it to be – in part and that part its government not its people – to be wholly wicked.”
- The judgment was based on both expert and witness testimonies, which claimed detainees were forced to take medications that affected reproductive functioning. They were also forced to provide blood samples for unknown reasons. Pregnant women, whether detained or not, were forced to have abortions even “at the very last stages of pregnancy.” Sometimes, babies were born but eventually killed.
- The tribunal ruled that President Xi Jinping, Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Quanguo and other senior officials “bear primary responsibility” for the events in Xinjiang. They pointed out that the crimes have occurred as a direct result of policies, language and speeches promoted by Xi and others.
China’s response: China has long dismissed allegations over its conduct in Xinjiang, and government officials slammed the tribunal and its judgment as false or irrelevant.
- In a statement, a spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the tribunal had been “manipulated and sponsored by anti-China forces in the U.S. and the West,” according to NBC News. “They hired liars to make false statements and falsify evidence, in an attempt to craft a political tool to disrupt Xinjiang and smear China,” the spokesperson added.
- Meanwhile, the Chinese Embassy in London called the tribunal “a political tool used by a few anti-China elements to deceive and mislead the public,” according to CNN. The embassy also stressed that the tribunal is not an official legal institution.
- Xinjiang spokesperson Xu Guixiang also took a jab at the judgment, which he found “severely infringes on the international order,” according to state media Global Times. Xu added that it disrespects actual victims of genocide, a crime that has “rigid procedures” for defining and cannot be based on “untenable accusations and smears.”