LONDON (AP) — An independent and unofficial body set up by a prominent British barrister to assess evidence on China’s alleged rights abuses against the Uyghur people concluded Thursday that the Chinese government committed genocide and crimes against humanity.
The Uyghur Tribunal, made up of lawyers, academics and businesspeople, doesn't have any government backing or powers to sanction or punish China. But organizers hope the process of publicly laying out evidence will compel international action to tackle alleged abuses against the Uyghurs, a largely Muslim ethnic group.
Tribunal chair Geoffrey Nice said the group was satisfied that forced birth control and sterilization policies targeting Uyghurs in China's far western Xinjiang province were intended to reduce the group's population. The abuse was part of comprehensive policies directly linked to President Xi Jinping and the highest levels of the Chinese government, he said.
The Chinese Embassy in London didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Thursday that “the so-called forced labor and genocide in Xinjiang are entirely vicious rumors.”
Wang was responding to a question about a law passed Wednesday by the U.S. House of Representatives to ban imports from Xinjiang over forced labor concerns. Wang accused the U.S. of using Xinjiang-related issues to “spread rumors under the guise of human rights and engage in political manipulation and economic bullying.”
The Uyghur Tribunal concluded that it was beyond doubt that crimes against humanity were committed, including the torture and rape of scores held in vast detention centers.
“On the basis of evidence heard in public, the tribunal is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the People's Republic of China, by the imposition of measures to prevent births intended to destroy a significant part of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang as such, has committed genocide," said Nice, a senior lawyer who led the prosecution of ex-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and has worked with the International Criminal Court.
He said Xi and other senior officials “bear primary responsibility” for what has occurred in Xinjiang.
“This vast apparatus of state repression could not exist if a plan was not authorized at the highest levels,” Nice said.
An estimated 1 million people or more — most of them Uyghurs — have been confined in reeducation camps in Xinjiang in recent years, according to researchers.
The hearings were the latest attempt to hold China accountable for alleged rights abuses against the Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim and ethnic Turkic minorities.
Around 30 witnesses and experts gave evidence to a series of public hearings in central London earlier this year, alleging torture, rape and beatings by authorities while in state detention centers in Xinjiang province.
The hearings also reviewed evidence, including leaked Chinese government documents, detailing other policies including systematic forced birth control, the separation of young children from their families, forced labor and the destruction of mosques.
The U.S. government has declared that Beijing’s policies against the Uyghurs amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity. Legislatures in Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada have done the same.
Sylvia Hui, The Associated Press