China is committing genocide against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang, an independent U.K. tribunal said, adding to the criticism Beijing faces over its activities in the western region.
“The tribunal is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the 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,” Geoffrey Nice, chair of the London-based panel of lawyers, academics and former diplomats, said on Thursday, using an acronym for the People’s Republic of China.
The tribunal has no government backing, meaning its conclusions are nonbinding, but its decision is certain to elicit an angry response from China. The country’s Foreign Ministry has dismissed the panel as a “machine churning out lies” and Beijing sanctioned it in March.
“Despite its name, this is a propaganda organization that has nothing to do with the law,” Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Communist Party-backed Global Times newspaper, wrote on Twitter on Thursday after the decision. “The so-called ruling is purely a public stunt to coordinate with anti-China propaganda.”
An important finding of the tribunal was that genocide couldn’t have taken place “without the knowledge and tacit support of President Xi Jinping and other senior leaders of the Chinese Communist Party,” said Sam Brownback, former ambassador-at-large for the U.S. International Religious Freedom commission.
“Even if those individuals did not give direct orders, they created an environment in which these crimes against humanity could take place without repercussion against those committing them,” he added.
The U.S. House approved a volley of measures this week targeting China over allegations of human rights abuses, including the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, a resolution stating the International Olympic Committee “failed to adhere to its own human rights commitments” to tennis star Peng Shuai and a resolution calling for a United Nations investigation into genocide in Xinjiang.
With the Beijing Winter Olympics now some 57 days away, the U.S., U.K. Australia and Canada have announced diplomatic boycotts of games also over human rights concerns. That followed the Women’s Tennis Association’s decision to suspend activities in China over the treatment of Peng, who last month alleged an affair with a top Communist Party official.
Since launching in September 2020, the tribunal has heard from academics, former politicians and victims of alleged abuses. Its chair, Nice, was a prosecutor in the Slobodan Milosevic trial for war crimes at The Hague.
“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,” Nice said.
Charles Parton, a former U.K. diplomat in China who participated in the tribunal, described its approach to Xinjiang-related issues as “probably the most thorough look at all the evidence.”
German scholar Adrian Zenz, who also provided testimony, called what’s happening in Xinjiang an “atrocity.”
“The tribunal constitutes a people’s effort to step in where governments and multilateral institutions have failed,” he said.
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