London Uyghur Tribunal
A Commentary on the Judgement
The London Uyghur Tribunal was set up to examine evidence and determine whether China’s human rights abuses against the Uyghurs amount to genocide under the Genocide Convention. “The Tribunal Members, working with no preconceptions, have assessed evidence to decide whether the PRC, a great, powerful and successful nation, has been and is attacking with the intent of destroying a part, or parts, of its own population” (para 10).
The London Uyghur Tribunal met in 2021 and gave its judgement on 9th December 2021. Of the five prohibited acts in the Genocide Convention, the Tribunal concluded that only the suppression of birth was proven.
The Tribunal Judgement began with an assessment of the eleven acts of crimes against humanity (para171) and found the following:
Unproven: murder, extermination, enslavement
Proven: deportation and forcible transfer, torture, rape and enforced sterilisation, persecution, enforced disappearance and inhumane acts (apartheid was not considered)
The Tribunal Judgement then moved on to explaining the criteria for determining whether genocide is proven (para171–175). Article II of the Genocide Convention states that genocide means any of five prohibited acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.
The Tribunal assessment of the 5 prohibited acts is highlighted below (para 177).
a) Killings members of the group
“There has been evidence of killings in various ways; but the evidence does not show it to have been carried out on a scale that could threaten the destruction of the group in whole in part.”
b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
“There has been considerable harm, both mental and physical … but the Tribunal is unable to conclude that the State intended to destroy them by means of such harm.”
c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, in whole or in part
“There has been systematic expulsion from homes, in prison withholding of medical attention and the provision of meagre amounts of food of poor nutritional value, rape and torture of prisoners, … but the Tribunal was unable to conclude that this threatens the destruction of the group.”
d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
“Imposing conditions intended to prevent birth … This will result in a partial destruction of the Uyghurs. In accordance with the Genocide Convention’s use of the word ‘destroy’ this satisfies a prohibited act required for the proof of genocide but leaves unresolved whether the State intended this destruction and, if it did, whether the part to be destroyed was a sufficient part.”
e) Forcefully transferring children of the group to another group
“… the law has not been sufficiently developed for the Tribunal to conclude that they qualify as one of the acts of intended destruction.”
The Tribunal then proceed to explain, somewhat convolutedly, how it came to the view that China committed genocide by suppressing the birth rate of Uyghurs in Xinjiang (para 178).
“… when the ‘intention’ element of the crime was considered. It is clear that ‘destruction’ — even articulated as ‘physical and biological destruction’ — does not have a unique meaning and it is easy to imagine circumstances where an intention to destroy by one means might be associated with an inconsistent destructive act, itself consistent with some different but unproved intention.”
The Tribunal then states that all the policies and birth control measures “had evolved into plans at every level of regional, local and community government — to reduce the Uyghur population thereby to destroy it to an extent by birth control and sterilisation.” However, the Tribunal Judgement report did not provide any details of the birth control measures and there appears to be some reservations around its judgement (para 184, 185).
“The Tribunal would, as a whole, prefer not to make such a finding and to allow findings of genocide in law to match more closely the likely general public understanding of the word.”
“The Tribunal recognises that a finding of genocide based on control of childbirth may even seem to some close to lawful management by governments of societies elsewhere; in the back of some minds might be awkward and uncomfortable considerations of worldwide unsustainable population growth”
The Tribunal also states that it “would be defiant of the wisdom of those men and women, whose experience of the worst of humanity was personal” who decided to include ‘imposing measures intended to prevent births’ as one of the five prohibited acts (para 186).
The Tribunal therefore decided that (para 189, 190):
“… the ‘unborn’ part of the Uyghur ethnicity of Xinjiang … constitutes a ‘substantial part’ for purposes of the Genocide Convention.”
“… by the imposition of measures to prevent births intended to destroy a significant part of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang as such, has committed genocide.”
The reason given that it would be “defiant of the wisdom of those men and women” sounds more like a subjective argument rather than a strict objective legal assessment.
To claim unborn lives due to birth control is genocidal is a step down a slippery slope. The world population in 1950 was about 2.5 billion, about 8 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach 9.6 billion in 2050. There would be millions of unborn lives globally, since the 1960s, when contraceptive pills became available. Many countries have run birth control programmes. Is China’s one child policy to limit Han Chinese population growth a genocide?
The key question is therefore what were the birth control measures imposed in Xinjiang. Besides testimonials given during the Tribunal, the main statistical data came from a research report by Adrian Zenz in 2020. The most damning indictment made was mass forced sterilisation:
“In 2018, 80 percent of all new IUD placements in China were performed in Xinjiang, despite the fact that the region only makes up 1.8 percent of the nation’s population”
Zenz helpfully provided the source for his figure, which is table 8–8–2 in the 2019 Health and Hygiene Statistical Yearbooks.
Table 8–8–2 showed that 328,475 IUDs were carried out in Xinjiang from a total of 3,774,318 for the whole country, that is, 8.7%.
Whether Zenz faked the figure or it was an honest mistake, 80% continued to be used by the media, Western politicians and presumably the Tribunal.
In another part of the report, Zenz wrote:
“Overall, it is likely that Xinjiang authorities are engaging in the mass sterilization of women with three or more children … In addition, rural women who “voluntarily” opt for sterilization after their second child, and hence forgo having a third child, receive one time payments of up to $700 (5,000 RMB) and ongoing annual cash rewards (Xinjiang Health Commission, January 5, 2018).”
Although there is abuse from overzealous officers (testimonials given to the Tribunal), can a policy of sterilising women with 3 or more children be considered genocide? The Uyghur population in Xinjiang grew from over 6 million in the 1980s to just under 12 million today. What the data show is a flattening of population growth due to birth control measures.
The Tribunal also noted (para 67) that a request for evidence to the US Secretary of State Blinken was “never formally acknowledged and informally denied”. Japan claimed to have evidence but “request for material was not acknowledged”. Similarly, requests to the UK “for assistance by provision of useable evidence, including by Freedom of Information (Act) requests, have all been declined”.
Towards the end of the Judgement report (para 191), the Tribunal states:
“This Judgment, with no evidence of any mass killing, may be thought to diminish the perceived status of genocide as a crime …
And most of those affected in Xinjiang, it should be recalled, are still alive and their lives may, at some stage, improve beyond how they presently are.”
 “Sterilizations, Forced Abortions, and Mandatory Birth Control”, Adrian Zenz, June 2020