On the final day of a tribunal in London investigating whether China’s treatment of its ethnic Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims constitutes genocide, witnesses and experts testified about enforced disappearances, the compulsory sterilization of women and forced contraception, organ harvesting, and torture by Chinese authorities.
In all, more than 30 witnesses and experts have provided testimony and appeared before the tribunal that has no state backing or powers of sanction or enforcement.
On Monday, eight voluntary witnesses and experts appeared in the hearing to answer questions based on earlier submitted written testimony and reports.
Any judgments issued by the nine-member tribunal chaired by prominent British lawyer Geoffrey Nice are nonbinding on any government.
China has held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a network of detention camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) since 2017.
Beijing has said that the camps are vocational training centres or re-education centres and has denied widespread and documented allegations that it has subjected Muslims living in the XUAR to severe rights abuses.
The Uyghurs are a predominantly Muslim group estimated at more than 12 million people in the XUAR. Smaller numbers of Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, fellow Turkic speaking people, have also been incarcerated in the camp system.
Nurisman Abdureshid, a 33-year-old Uyghur who has lived in Turkey since 2015 when she went there to study, told the panel that she had normal contact with her family until June 2017, and later found out that her family members had been disappeared or detained.
Authorities handed down long prison sentences to her mother, father, and young brother for “preparatory terrorist offences” and her mother underwent forced sterilization, she said.
Nurisman went on to say that authorities forced all Uyghur women in her village in Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) to undergo pregnancy tests and intrauterine device (IUD) checks, and that her sister-in-law aborted twins out of fear of repercussion from authorities for violating the birth policy.
Mehmut Tevekkül, a 51-year-old Uyghur from the XUAR who fled illegally to Turkey where he now lives, recounted how he had been detained twice in 2009 and 2010 because close relatives had been “detained in 1996 for being religious.”
“I was put on the tiger chair and they whipped my feet with iron wire,” he said in written testimony, describing how he was tortured while in detention. “There [was]a bolt directly above the tiger chair, and the heat from that bolt [was]unbearable” Tiger chairs are metal chairs that immobilize suspects during interrogations.
Mehmut told how a Chinese official had confiscated farmland from 70-80 Uyghur families in his town in Kargilik (Yecheng) county in Kashgar prefecture for not following orders, and had given the land to Chinese migrants.
The official, Zhu Hailun, “murdered so many people in our county, he took around 50 to 60, and in some villages 70 Uyghurs,” he said. “Very few were released. A large number of them were returned dead.”
In September 2008, a neighbour and his uncle’s eldest son were taken away in a group of 11 Uyghurs, and both later turned up dead, Mehmut said.
Ethan Gutmann of the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China, discussed findings from his December 2020 report alleging that China has forced organ harvesting in the XUAR from political and religious prisoners beginning with the Uyghurs in the 1990s and satellite images of crematoriums built close to “re-education camps” where bodies could be burned after operations to remove organs.
He testified that about 20 witnesses all from different camps in the XUAR told him that Uyghurs from whom organs were harvested were all approximately 28 years old, and that the financial return on a body with usable organs totaled US$500,000-750,000.
Adrian Zenz, an independent researcher with the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, testified Monday about China’s policy to reduce the natural population growth in southern XUAR.
His latest report, issued Monday, indicates that Chinese policies could result in a large drop in births among Uyghurs of 2.6 million to 4.5 million by 2040, based on population projections by Chinese researchers.
Beijing has denounced the tribunal and smeared its participants, saying it is being “funded by the World Uyghur Congress, an organization dedicated to separating Xinjiang from China.” The WUC is an international organization based in Munich, Germany, that represents the collective interests of Uyghurs in the XUAR and abroad.
A statement issued by the Chinese Embassy in the UK on Saturday said that the tribunal was “neither legal nor credible,” repeating a statement made Thursday by China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin in Beijing.
“It is just another anti-China farce concocted by a few individuals with the end goal of using Xinjiang to contain China. The Chinese side is firmly opposed to it,” the statement said.
The Uyghur Tribunal is expected to issue a final verdict in December on whether China is committing genocide or crimes against humanity in the XUAR. (Source: RFA)