“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,” Geoffrey Nice, who chaired the tribunal, said on Thursday as he read out the verdict.
He added that the tribunal was “satisfied that President Xi Jinping, Chen Quanguo and other very senior officials in the PRC and CCP [Chinese Communist Party] bear primary responsibility for acts in Xinjiang.”
While the “perpetration of individual criminal acts that may have occurred, rape or torture, may not have been carried out with the detailed knowledge of the President and others, but the tribunal is satisfied that they have occurred as a direct result of politics, language and speeches promoted by President Xi and others and furthermore these policies could not have happened in a country with such rigid hierarchies as the PRC without implicit and explicit authority from the very top,” he said.
The judgment follows a series of tribunal hearings in London this year, during which a panel of jurors comprising of lawyers and academics among others reviewed evidence and testimony.
The non-governmental Uyghur Tribunal was founded in 2020 by Nice, a British barrister and international human rights lawyer, at the urging of Uyghur activists.
Nice was among several British individuals and entities sanctioned by the Chinese government in March this year in retaliation for British sanctions on Chinese officials over human rights violations in Xinjiang.
China’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Zheng Zeguang, has called the Uyghur Tribunal a “political manipulation aimed at discrediting China.”
On Thursday, the Chinese Embassy in London called the tribunal “a political tool used by a few anti-China elements to deceive and mislead the public. It is not a legal institution. Nor does it have any legal authority.”
It added that the Xinjiang region “now enjoys economic progress, social stability and ethnic solidarity. China will remain focused on doing the right thing and following the path that suits its national reality.”
The United States State Department estimates up to 2 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have passed through a sprawling network of detention centers across Xinjiang, where former detainees allege they were subjected to intense political indoctrination, forced labor, torture, and even sexual abuse.
Beijing vehemently denies allegations of human rights abuses, insisting the camps are voluntary “vocational training centers” designed to stamp out religious extremism and terrorism.
In March, the US along with the European Union, Canada and the UK announced sanctions on Chinese officials over human rights violations in Xinjiang. China responded almost immediately by imposing a raft of tit-for-tat sanctions, as well as travel and business bans.
As the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics approaches, international pressure over China’s treatment of Uyghurs has been building, with activists calling for a boycott of the Games.
At a news conference Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “human rights abuses and issues in Xinjiang” were some of the concerns raised by the Australian government with Beijing.