Uyghur Tribunal finds China committed genocide in Xinjiang

London ruling follows Western nations' diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics, and U.S. forced labor censure.

Uyghur Tribunal finds China committed genocide in Xinjiang

An independent tribunal in London said Thursday that China committed genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in its western Xinjiang region and that President Xi Jinping shared primary responsibility for the atrocities.

The Uyghur Tribunal based its findings on testimony from dozens of witnesses, including formerly jailed Uyghurs and other locals, as well as legal and academic experts on China’s actions in its far-western Xinjiang region.

"The tribunal is satisfied that the PRC (People's Republic of China) has affected a deliberate, systematic and concerted policy with the object of so-called 'optimizing' the population in Xinjiang by the means of a long-term reduction of Uyghur and other ethnic minority populations to be achieved through limiting and reducing Uyghur births," tribunal chair Geoffrey Nice quoted the verdict as saying on Thursday.

Nice, a prominent British attorney, said the panel was "satisfied that President Xi Jinping, Chen Quanguo and other very senior officials in the PRC and CCP bear primary responsibility for acts in Xinjiang."

The tribunal’s report is in not binding, as the panel has no state backing or power to sanction China. But its conclusion adds to the growing body of evidence that China’s persecution of Uyghurs constitutes a crime against humanity.

The tribunal included nine members and was led by Nice, who led the prosecution at The Hague of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who was accused of atrocities in the former Yugoslavia. It conducted two daylong hearings in London in June and September, during which the panelists heard accounts from internment camp survivors describing sexual assaults, torture, forced sterilizations, coerced labor and killings.

The tribunal also held a virtual hearing in November during which expert witnesses, including German anthropologist Adrian Zenz, introduced further evidence of involvement in the internment program of top officials, including President Xi Jinping.

The finding in London was announced the day after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government would join a diplomatic boycott of 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics along with the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Lithuania.

It also followed on the heels of a 428 to 1 vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which would prohibit imports from Xinjiang. The Senate had already unanimously passed the bill in July.

The Congress has also passed a resolution officially recognizing the Uyghur genocide–joining parliaments in Canada, The Netherlands, the U.K., and Lithuania–and condemning the International Olympics Committee’s endorsement of the Beijing Games in the wake of revelations about Xinjiang.

About 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples are believed to have been detained in a vast network of internment camps in Xinjiang. China has angrily rejected criticism of its practices in the region that the U.S. and a handful of European countries have labelled a genocide.

Chinese authorities contend the camps are vocational training centers designed to combat religious extremism and terrorism.

At the virtual hearing last month, Zenz, researcher with the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, authenticated a package of Chinese government documents that were believed to have been leaked to the tribunal.

The documents, some of which were marked top secret, included speeches by Chinese president Xi Jinping in 2014 calling for Uyghur re-education and population control in Xinjiang. Zenz said the documents were part of the “Xinjiang Papers” that were originally leaked to The New York Times in 2019 but have not been released publicly.

The documents are significant because they show that the systematic attacks on the Uyghurs were part of a long-term strategy by the central government, said Zenz, who has written extensively on China’s network of internment camps and the alleged abuses that the Uyghurs have suffered.

The Uyghur tribunal was launched by Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, as a way to investigate atrocities and possible genocide against the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples, because the two international courts that are able to make formal rulings on China’s policies have no plans to take up the case.

China is not a party to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and therefore is not bound to submit to a trial, while the International Court of Justice (ICJ) can only take up a case that has been approved by the United Nations Security Council, and China’s permanent membership in the Council gives it veto power over any such decision.

Earlier this year, Washington, citing concerns about forced labor, tightened scrutiny and import controls on Chinese firms that manufacture solar-panel material, wigs, electronics, tomatoes, and cotton with suspected forced Uyghur labor.

Reported by RFA's Uyghur Service.