The legal opinion — written by senior barristers at Essex Court Chambers in London, and based on a six-month legal assessment — concluded there was evidence of state-mandated behavior that showed an intent to destroy the Muslim minority in northwest China, as well as the deliberate infliction of harm against Uighurs in detention.
The opinion also claims there is a “plausible” case Chinese President Xi Jinping was among those responsible for the genocide.
“On the basis of the evidence we have seen, this Opinion concludes that there is a very credible case that acts carried out by the Chinese government against the Uighur people in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region amount to crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide,” it says, according to the BBC. “Mr Xi controls the overall direction of state policy and has made a range of speeches exhorting the punitive treatment of the Uighurs.”
According to reports last year, up to three million Uighur Muslims in China’s western Xinjiang province have been taken from their homes since 2017 by authorities and disappeared into a prison camp, which the Chinese government glosses over as a re-education facility.
The legal opinion was published by the BBC on Sunday, after the broadcasting company reported last week that women in those camps have been systematically raped, sexually abused, and tortured.
“There is compelling evidence that detainees are subject to a range of forms of serious physical harm,” the opinion stated. “Detainees report having been punished by the administration of electric shocks, forced to remain in stress positions for an extended period of time, beaten, deprived of food, shackled and blindfolded.”
A legal opinion is the professional judgment of an independent expert in their field, who looks at evidence and law and comes to a conclusion, according to the broadcasting company.
The recent opinion was commissioned by the Global Legal Action Network, a human rights campaign group that focuses on the World Uighur Congress and the Uighur Human Rights Project, among other issues.
While the opinion does not have legal standing, it can be used as a basis for legal action. The opinion could also open up a legal path for British judges if Parliament agrees on new legislation to allow the High Court to decide on matters of genocide, the BBC reported.
China denies accusations of abuses in Xinjiang, saying they “are not about ethnicity, religion or human rights, but about anti-violence, anti-terrorism, anti-separatism, and de-radicalization.”
“We welcome the foreign nationals with an unbiased view to visit Xinjiang to see with their own eyes a real Xinjiang,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told Bloomberg last week. “In the meantime, we oppose the interference in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of human rights and oppose the presumption of guilt or any investigation based on it.”