Ethnic Uighur demonstrators take part in a protest against China, in Istanbul, Turkey
An unofficial tribunal of lawyers and campaigners said on Thursday that Chinese President Xi Jinping bore primary responsibility for what it said was genocide, crimes against humanity and torture of Uyghurs and Kazakhs in Xinjiang.
"The People's Republic of China (PRC) has committed genocide, crimes against humanity and torture against Uyghur, Kazakh and other ethnic minority citizens in the north west region of China known as Xinjiang," said the Uyghur Tribunal.
"The Tribunal is satisfied that President Xi Jinping... and other very senior officials in the PRC and CCP (Chinese Communist Party) bear primary responsibility for acts that have occurred in Xinjiang."
The tribunal, headed by British lawyer Geoffrey Nice, has no powers of sanction or enforcement.
U.N. experts and rights groups estimate over a million people, mainly Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, have been detained in recent years in a vast system of camps in China's western Xinjiang region.
China initially denied the camps existed, but has since said they are vocational centres and are designed to combat extremism. In late 2019, China said all people in the camps had "graduated."
In June 2020, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) asked Nice to set up an independent tribunal to investigate the accusations.
The Munich-based WUC, which represents the interests of Uyghurs in Xinjiang and around the world, on Thursday welcomed the tribunal's judgment.
In a statement on Thursday, China's foreign ministry dismissed the WUC as a separatist organization under the control and funding of anti-China forces in the United States and the West.
"This so-called 'court' has no legal credentials nor any credibility," a ministry spokesperson said, describing the testimony given as false and the final judgment as a "political farce performed by a few clowns."
China vehemently denies allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
"Lies cannot conceal the truth, cannot deceive the international community nor stop the historic course of...Xinjiang's stability, development and prosperity," the ministry spokesperson said of the Uyghur tribunal.
Reporting by Ryan Woo; Additional reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Michael Perry