China guilty of committing genocide against Uyghur people, independent tribunal finds

China is guilty of genocide, a tribunal has ruled, as ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward reflects on what this means for the country and the Olympics being held in Beijing

China has committed genocide against the Uyghur people in the province of Xinjiang, an independent UK-based tribunal has found.

The tribunal chair based the ruling on evidence the Chinese government’s forced birth control and sterilisation policies targeting Uyghurs, a largely Muslim ethnic group, were “intended to destroy a significant part” of their population.

The abuse formed part of policies directly linked to President Xi Jinping and the highest levels of the Chinese government, Geoffrey Nice said.

The panel believed senior officials including Xi Jinping bore "primary responsibility" for the abuses against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Credit: AP

“This vast apparatus of state repression could not exist if a plan was not authorised at the highest levels,” Mr Nice told the tribunal, which was comprised of lawyers, academics and business people.

His comments come after Australia, the US and the UK declared they will stage a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics next year.

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson announced that no UK ministers or officials will attend the games, saying he has "no hesitation" in raising alleged human rights abuses with China.

An estimated 1 million people or more - most of them Uyghurs- have been confined in re-education camps in Xinjiang in recent years, according to researchers. The hearings were the latest attempt to hold China accountable for its policies targeting the Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim and ethnic Turkic minorities.

About 30 witnesses and experts gave evidence to public hearings in central London earlier this year, alleging torture, forced abortions, rape and beatings by authorities while in state detention centres.

The hearings also reviewed evidence detailing other policies including the separation of young children from their families and the destruction of mosques.

Reading the tribunal's judgement, Mr Nice found there was no evidence of mass killings in Xinjiang, in the north-west of China, but said the alleged efforts to prevent births amounted to genocidal intent.

Tribunal chair Geoffrey Nice delivers the verdict of the independent tribunal. Credit: AP

As a senior lawyer, he previously led the prosecution of ex-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who had gone on trial at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague for genocide and crimes and humanity.

Those detained were mostly freed after re-indoctrination, Mr Nice said, as part of a central government plan designed in part to break up every aspect of Uyghur culture.

The panel also said it had found evidence of crimes against humanity, torture, and sexual violence against the Uyghur people.

Uyghurs during a demonstration in Parliament Square, London. Credit: AP

The panel has no powers to sanction China, but its organisers hope the process of publicly laying out evidence will help to increase pressure internationally to tackle alleged abuses.

The Chinese government denies all accusations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Thursday that “the so-called forced labour and genocide in Xinjiang are entirely vicious rumours.”