Uyghur Tribunal PRC Verdict: "Invasive Surveillance" Are "Crimes Against Humanity"

By Charles Rollet, Published Dec 09, 2021, 09:02am EST

The Uyghur Tribunal has reached its verdict, determining that the PRC (China) "has committed genocide" in Xinjiang due to PRC government efforts to reduce the number of Uyghurs through forced population control measures.

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Additionally, the Tribunal concluded the PRC committed "crimes against humanity" against Uyghurs, with "invasive surveillance" cited as one reason.

In September, IPVM provided expert testimony on the role of Hikvision, Dahua, and other PRC tech companies in designing and operating mass surveillance systems to repress Uyghurs.

In this post, IPVM examines the court's decision and reasoning along with its impact.

Decision Announced

British human rights lawyer Sir Geoffrey Nice, the tribunal's chair, delivered the verdict today, stating the PRC committed genocide "beyond reasonable doubt":

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Nice said he was "satisfied that President Xi Jinping, Chen Quanguo and other very senior officials in the PRC and CCP [Chinese Communist Party] bear primary responsibility for acts in Xinjiang."

Tribunal Background

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Nice served as the lead prosecutor in the UN war crimes trial of Serbian president Milosevic. However, unlike the UN, the Uyghur Tribunal has no legal authority, describing itself as an independent "people's court" made up of various prominent international human rights lawyers. The purpose is to document abuses, give closure to survivors, and help governments and individuals reconsider "how they interact with possible responsible States". For more on the Tribunal's background, read IPVM's prior coverage.

Reasoning Examined

Genocide was determined due to the PRC government's "comprehensive system of measures to 'optimise' the population" by "reducing the birth rates and population growth of Uyghurs" through methods like "mandatory sterilisation and forced abortions":

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Such tactics result in "a partial destruction of the Uyghurs" which matches the Genocide Convention's requirement that a state intend to "destroy [...] in whole, or in part" any ethnic or religious group. Regarding intent, a key determinant for genocide, the Tribunal said the birth control measures "matched the revealed intention of the PRC leadership's policies."

As IPVM covered last month, the US Holocaust Museum determined Uyghurs face "serious risk of genocide" due to reports of the PRC going "beyond a policy of forced assimilation" by sparking "a sharp decrease in Uyghur birth rates".

Xinjiang Surveillance Part Of "Crimes Against Humanity"

The Tribunal also determined the PRC government's actions against Uyghurs constitute Crimes Against Humanity, as defined by the International Criminal Court, citing "pervasive surveillance systems" turning Xinjiang into "an open-air prison" as one factor:

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The Tribunal also emphasized the "comprehensive, invasive surveillance systems that penetrated every aspect of life":

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In terms of specific surveillance, the Tribunal cited facial recognition, AI, and the Integrated Joint Operations Project (IJOP) which "monitor [...] every facet of Uyghur life". Overall, the Tribunal determined that most of the allegations against the PRC - forced deportations, persecution, "suffocating surveillance", forced labor, etc - did not constitute genocide, but crimes against humanity.

Verdict Impact Examined

The Tribunal said it "has no power of any kind to sanction the PRC" but hopes "politicians, civil society, NGOs, and powerful individuals" who do have this power "will do so":

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This increases the chances of governments enacting more sanctions against Xinjiang officials and companies profiting from the crackdown. For video surveillance, this could lead to more measures against Hikvision, Dahua, and others extensively involved in the region.

PRC Reaction

The PRC has not yet officially reacted to the verdict. UPDATE 12/09/21: the PRC reacted to in state media outlet CGTN, quoting a Foreign Ministry spokesperson that "the so-called final ruling by such a machine churning out lies is nothing but a political farce staged by a handful of contemptible individuals." The spokesperson added, according to state media Global Times, that "this farce is doomed to be rejected by all and end up in the dustbin in history":

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Three days ago, Xinjiang's regional government spokesperson said the Tribunal was based on "lies of the century" which "disrespects the true victims of genocide", describing it as set up by "anti-China forces":

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Regarding these allegations, the Tribunal has emphasized it is "completely independent", repeatedly requesting the PRC provide evidence to counter the allegations, and stating in its verdict that "no adverse factual inference of any kind was drawn against the PRC or any other body for failure to respond positively to requests for evidence or assistance made by the Tribunal."

IPVM Testimony

IPVM testified to the Uyghur Tribunal in September on surveillance abuses, full testimony below:

Update (12/09/21): PRC China reacted to the Tribunal’s verdict in state media outlet CGTN, quoting a Foreign Ministry spokesperson, “The so-called final ruling by such a machine churning out lies is nothing but a political farce staged by a handful of contemptible individuals.”

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