Unofficial British Tribunal Says China Committed Genocide Against Uyghurs

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An independent, unofficial panel of British lawyers, academics and businesspeople has concluded that China’s government committed genocide against Uyghurs, a ruling denounced by China as a “farce.”

A Chinese spokesperson for the government of Xinjiang region, Xu Guixiang, Friday called the verdict “extremely despicable” as well as illegitimate.

“The so-called final pronouncement is a piece of wastepaper,” he said at a virtual press briefing.

The London panel, called the Uyghur Tribunal, ruled Thursday that Chinese government policies of forced birth control and sterilization targeting Uyghurs constituted genocide. The tribunal’s chair, prominent British barrister Geoffrey Nice, said the policies were “intended to destroy a significant part” of the Uyghur population. Uyghurs are a largely Muslim ethnic group based in China’s western Xinjiang region.

The tribunal does not have any government backing or ability to sanction China.

It was set up at the request of the World Uyghur Congress, the largest group representing exiled Uyghurs. Organizers of the tribunal hope the process of publicly presenting evidence about China’s actions toward Uyghurs will boost international pressure on Beijing to change its policies.

The tribunal spoke to 30 witnesses and experts during a series of public hearings in central London this year and reviewed Chinese documents on government policies toward Uyghurs.

It concluded that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, and possibly more than 1 million, had been detained in camps without cause.

In addition to genocide, the panel said that China’s government carried out crimes against humanity and torture on the Uyghurs and that President Xi Jinping bore primary responsibility.

China’s foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday, “This so-called tribunal has neither any legal qualifications or any credibility,” and accused it of telling lies as part of a “political farce” to “smear China.”

China denies any allegations of human rights abuses against Uyghurs.

The United States has called China’s treatment of Uyghurs genocide and announced this week that it would not send diplomats or official representatives to the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing. Britain, Canada, Australia and Lithuania have also joined the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics.

Under the boycott, the countries will still send athletes to participate in the Games.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.