The so-called “Uyghur Tribunal” is promoted across the Western media as an “independent” tribunal. AP claims that it seeks to lay out evidence that will “compel international action to tackle growing concerns about alleged abuses in Xinjiang.”
The tribunal – having no legal basis or enforcement mechanism – will clearly be used to help bolster calls for a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic games and may serve to help pressure nations around the globe to roll back ties with China and aid the US in imposing additional sanctions and boycotts.
An “Independent” Tribunal Funded by the US Government
Media platforms like the US State Department’s Radio Free Asia in articles have claimed the tribunal has “no state backing.” The abovementioned AP article only claims the tribunal “does not have UK government backing.”
Yet the Uyghur Tribunal’s official website, under a section titled, “About,” admits (emphasis added):
In June 2020 Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress formally requested that Sir Geoffrey Nice QC establish and chair an independent people’s tribunal to investigate ‘ongoing atrocities and possible Genocide’ against the Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslim Populations.
It also claims on a second page about funding that:
A crowdfunder page has raised nearly £250 000, with an initial amount of around $115 000 dollars donated by the Uyghur diaspora through the World Uyghur Congress.
What isn’t mentioned is that the World Uyghur Congress, along with many of the supposed experts and witnesses providing statements during the supposed tribunal, are funded by the United States government through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
This includes the president of WUC himself, Dolkun Isa, who provided a statement on June 4, 2021. Other members of US NED-funded organizations participating in the so-called tribunal included Muetter Illiqud of the NED-funded Uyghur Transitional Justice Database (UTJD), Rushan Abbas and Julie Millsap of the NED-funded Campaign for Uyghurs, Bahram Sintash and Elise Anderson of the NED-funded Uyghur Human Rights Project and Laura Harth of Safeguard Defenders, formerly known as the NED-funded China Action organization.
WUC is listed by name along with the UHRP, Campaign for Uyghurs, and the Uyghur Refugee Relief Fund on the official US NED website under “Xinjiang/East Turkestan 2020.” On another NED page titled, “Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act Builds on Work of NED Grantees,” the Uyghur Transitional Justice Database Project is also listed as receiving money from the US funding arm.
Also participating in the supposed tribunal was Adrian Zenz of the US government-funded Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC), Shohret Hosur who works for the US State Department’s Radio Free Asia, Mihrigul Tursun who was awarded the NED-affiliated “Citizen Power Award in 2018, Sayragul Sauytbay who received the 2020 US State Department’s Women of Courage Award, and IPVM which is a video surveillance information service previously commissioned by the US government in regards to Chinese government surveillance programs in Xinjiang.
There was also Sean Robert who was a senior advisor to the USAID mission to Central Asia from 1998-2006 – the very region and time period Uyghur separatism was being organized from beyond China’s borders. Robert has been active in promoting US-funded propaganda regarding Xinjiang for years alongside other mainstays like Rushan Abbas and Louisa Greve.
Nearly every other “witness” brought before the so-called tribunal has a long-established history of participating in the US government-funded propaganda campaign aimed at China and its alleged abuses in Xinjiang. This includes Omir Bekali who was previously invited to testify in front of the US Congress in 2018, Asiye Abdulahed who claims to be the alleged source of the so-called “China Files,” Zumret Dawut whose allegations were used by former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in attacks aimed at China, and Tursunay Ziyawudun who spoke in front of Congress in 2021.
There were also Westerners representing corporate-funded think tanks long engaged in a propaganda war with China including Nathan Ruser of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Darren Byler and Jessica Batke of “ChileFile” – a subsidiary of Asia Society funded by the Australian and Japanese governments as well as Open Society, and Charles Parton of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) funded by the US State Department, the EU, Canada, Qatar, the UK, Japan, Australia, as well as arms manufacturers like BAE, Airbus, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Dynamics.
Only a handful of participants appeared to be relatively new faces, perhaps drawn from lesser corners of the global Uyghur diaspora being cultivated by the US as a political weapon.
Tedious, Holes-Filled Testimony
The testimony itself was tedious and lengthy with a total of nearly 80 hours recorded and uploaded to the Uyghur Tribunal’s YouTube channel. However, spot checking any of the testimony reveals massive discrepancies.
For example, on the first day of hearings, Muetter Illiqud of the abovementioned US government-funded UTJD provided conflicting total numbers of Uyghurs allegedly interned as well as conflicting accounts regarding Chinese government restrictions on the number of children permitted in cities and in rural villages. Illiqud failed to explain the discrepancies and was invited by Geoffrey Nice, chair of the tribunal, to return in September with the discrepancies fixed.
Another alleged witness, Gulzire Alwuqanqizi who spoke with an NED-affiliated “ChinaAid” banner behind her, claimed in her written statement that she was forced to work in a factory for a month and a half (approximately 45 days) where she claims she made a total of 2,000 gloves. Yet in her spoken statement she claims she was never able to meet the daily quota of 20 gloves and instead made only 10-12. If that is true, she would have only produced at most 540 gloves. She was never asked to clarify this discrepancy.
Also in her written statement, she claims she was caught sending photos of the factory to her husband. She claims:
One day, I took a picture of the factory and sent it to him. From there it became public. Following this, I was interrogated, they asked the same questions they had always asked, all night long, but eventually they let me go.
Yet in her spoken statement, she claimed:
At the factory where we were producing the gloves, I sent a photo and as punishment I was put in something like a ditch, a 20 meter deep well. They threw some electric currents at me, they poured water on me, and kept me there for 24 hours.
No comment was made by the panel interviewing her regarding this glaring inconsistency either.
Another witness, Tursunay Ziyawudun, claimed in her written statement to have been detained upon entering China after living in Kazakhstan from 2011 to 2016.
She inferred that she was being asked questions about the US NED-funded World Uyghur Congress during an interrogation, and claimed:
I didn’t even know what World Uyghur Congresses were at that time. We don’t have access to this information in China.
Yet clearly, while living in Kazakhstan for 5 years prior to returning to China, she did have access to this information. It is yet another inconsistency left unchallenged by the so-called tribunal.
Out of about 80 hours of proceedings, there is always bound to be inconsistencies, yet when the panel observed these, it took no action at all, skipping past them, excusing them, or allowing witnesses to alter their claims at a later date to iron out obvious inconsistencies. All of this further calls into question the professionalism, objectivity, and integrity of the entire “tribunal.”
Of course, no one in the public will likely watch any of the testimony first hand, let alone cross examine the spoken statements with their written statements. The general public will instead rely on the Western media’s interpretations of the so-called tribunal consisting of cherry-picked highlights designed to prey on the public’s emotions.
The “Uyghur Tribunal” – a Bad Sequel to the “China Tribunal”
The so-called “Uyghur Tribunal” unfolds as a sort of sequel to the 2019 “China Tribunal.” The China Tribunal and the Uyghur Tribunal following it were both chaired by Geoffrey Nice and included Hamid Sabi, Nicholas Vetch, and Aarif Abraham as participants. Both were initiated and funded by US government-funded organizations.
While the WUC organized the Uyghur Tribunal, the so-called International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC) was the organization behind the “China Tribunal.” ETAC’s own webpage does not disclose its funding, but provides a list of names on its “international advisory committee.” They include Louisa Greve who was part of the NED’s senior leadership for 24 years before shifting over to the NED-funded Uyghur Human Rights Project. Ethan Gutmann is also listed. His book, “The Slaughter,” regarding alleged human organ harvesting in China, was launched at an NED event in Washington D.C. There is also Benedict Rogers, an advisor to the NED-funded World Uyghur Congress.
In other words, both tribunals were not tribunals at all, but instead an exhibition put on by a US government-funded troupe of activists deeply invested in maligning China and helping advance US foreign policy objectives versus Beijing.
It is merely a larger, more elaborate version of a literal exhibition funded by the US government and organized by the World Uyghur Congress in Geneva Switzerland also this year. A September 2021 Reuters article titled, “China accuses Washington of ‘low political tricks’ over Uyghur exhibit,” would note:
A US-backed Uyghur photo exhibit of dozens of people who are missing or alleged to be held in camps in Xinjiang, China, opened in Switzerland on Thursday, prompting Beijing to issue a furious statement accusing Washington of “low political tricks”.
The article also claimed:
The United States gave a financial grant for the exhibit, which will later travel to Brussels and Berlin, the World Uyghur Congress told Reuters. Earlier this week, the US mission in Geneva displayed it at a diplomatic reception, according to sources who attended.
“We are committed to placing human rights at the center of our China policy, and we will continue to highlight the grave human rights abuses we see the PRC committing across China, in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, and elsewhere,” a US mission spokesperson said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
The US, guilty of the very worst crimes against humanity of the 21st century, only claims to put human rights at the center of its foreign policy when politically convenient. No mention is made of the US’ decades of supporting violent separatism in China including in Tibet and Xinjiang – creating the very real terrorism China’s security measures were put in place to combat.
No mention or note is made in articles about the “Uyghur Tribunal” regarding the constant use of the term “East Turkestan” instead of Xinjiang or the fact that most of the people speaking at the tribunal are separatists and at least partly responsible for the violence and instability that seized Xinjiang before Beijing intervened.
No mention is made about the constant presence of East Turkestan separatist flags in the backgrounds as witnesses provide testimony. At one point in the proceedings, pro-separatist Arslan Hidayat was seen interpreting for at least two witnesses. Hidayat has repeatedly called for Xinjiang to be ethnically cleansed of Han Chinese.
As China reacted to the violence the US fuelled – the US used accusations of human rights abuses to hamstring and undermine Chinese efforts to restore peace and stability. The US uses the sword of state-sponsored terrorism to strike at China, and the shield of feigned rights advocacy to defend US-sponsored separatists from justice.
The “Uyghur Tribunal” is merely the latest and perhaps grandest iteration of this strategy of striking and defending. The tribunal’s final “ruling” will be read in December 2021, just ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and a concerted US-led media campaign to call for the world’s boycott of the games. Beyond that, further sanctions could be leveled against China – all in the wake of a clearly US-engineered show tribunal dishonestly presented to the public as “justice” and “human rights advocacy.”
The harsh irony is that the US seeks to blunt China’s rise specifically so it can continue acting on the global stage with impunity, and continue carrying out the verified, very real campaign of death, destruction, and genocide it has led since the turn of the century.
Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.