The Chinese government has perpetrated genocide, crimes against humanity and torture against Uighurs and other minorities in its western province of Xinjiang, an unofficial and autonomous UK-based tribunal has decreed. The tribunal does not have government support and the power to sanction or castigate China. But experts say that it will enable to galvanise administrations around the world to hold China responsible for abuses.
A UN human rights panel in 2018 said it had got “numerous and credible” testimonies that authorities in Xinjiang had imprisoned 1 million or more Uighur and other ethnic minority Muslims in internment centres.
WHO ARE UYGHURS?
There are nearly 12 million Uyghurs, largely Muslim, staying in Xinjiang, which is officially understood as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
The Uyghurs utter their language, which is similar to Turkish, and recognize themselves as culturally and ethnically familiar to Central Asian nations. China has also been indicted of targeting Muslim popular individuals and prohibiting religious practices in the province, as well as demolishing mosques and tombs. Uyghur activists believed that China's aggressive and vehement action might lead to the erasure of their identity.
The Chinese authorities have arbitrarily imprisoned approx one million Uighurs and other minorities in 300 to 400 buildings in Xinjiang, in the largest internment of an ethnoreligious minority since WWII.
TRIBUNAL PITCHES ITS SUPPORT FOR UYGHURS
Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, the head of the Uighur Tribunal and distinguished human rights lawyer, asserted that the Chinese government has specifically targeted the Muslim Uighur population with mandatory birth control and sterilisation programs to diminish the group’s population. “The tribunal is complacent 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, who also led the trial of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic on war crimes and genocide.
The tribunal was founded in September last year with the assistance of the NGO Coalition for Genocide Response to examine “ongoing atrocities and possible genocide” against the Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslim communities.
The tribunal has completed “the most wide-ranging and comprehensive assessment of the evidence about the Uighur crisis that anybody, including governments, has got,” de Pulford added. One of the tribunal’s “critical functions” has been providing a forum for survivors, Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
“It created a space for people to explain to the world what happened and to raise public awareness of these ongoing crimes against humanity,” she said.
Their allegations comprised accounts of whippings, rape and torture detention centres in Xinjiang. Uighur Muslims have been “subjected to acts of unconscionable cruelty, depravity and inhumanity”, Nice said.
CHINA ON THE RADAR
Foreign social media influencers are being employed by the Chinese Communist Party as part of a “global propaganda push” to gloss over human rights mishandlings in the Xinjiang province, according to a report by an Australian think tank.
Chinese state entities ask foreign social media producers on state-backed tours of the independent region and overstate video and other topics that support “pro-CCP narratives,” according to the report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI). In the report released on Tuesday, the Canberra-based think tank announced it observed at least 546 posts by Chinese state-controlled social media accounts that facilitated Xinjiang-related content produced by 13 foreign influencers.
The posts, stretching January 2020 and August 2021, comprised videos that illustrated a “wholly positive image of life in Xinjiang” by directing on the region’s food, community and infrastructure, as well as more “overtly political” videos that doubted allegations of mass imprisonment and forced labor.
CHINA’S STANCE ON THE ACCUSATIONS
The Chinese government has continually refuted that officials have perpetrated mishandlings in Xinjiang and has been reluctant to conduct inquiries or permit autonomous international monitors to do so. Chinese Foreign Minister Spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Twitter indicted ASPI of being a government-funded agency and told people should “follow the money” to comprehend why it circulated “so many fake reports about China”. China wished to come out as a clean state with no accusations hurled at its administration.
The Uighur bench has instructed the UK government to initiate and carry out various measures, such as imposing additional sanctions on China, fixing import restraints on commodities connected to Uighur slave labor and publicly accepting that genocide is taking place in Xinjiang. De Pulford said the judgement must be spun into a “campaign instrument” to get governments ready to engage with their legal commitments under the Genocide Convention Act – an international legal method that imposes the responsibility on states to deter and punish the crime of genocide.
“The failure to pursue accountability for crimes against humanity committed by the second-most powerful country in the world does nothing but guarantee more of those kinds of abuses.”