The Chinese government is allegedly taking forceful measures to slash birth rates among Uighurs and other minorities as part of a sweeping campaign to curb its Muslim population, according to an alarming new report on aggressive birth control policies in China’s Xinjiang province.
The report by China scholar Adrian Zenz, released on Monday, has prompted a coalition of leading international politicians to call for an independent United Nations investigation into human rights abuses in Xinjiang, to prevent the further suffering of the Uighur people.
A statement by the interparliamentary alliance on China (IPAC) cites “a body of mounting evidence” of alleged “mass incarceration, indoctrination, extrajudicial detention, invasive surveillance, forced labour, and the destruction of Uighur cultural sites,” as the basis for action by the UN General Assembly.
Professor Zenz’s new research suggests that the sudden fall in Uighur birthrates coincides with reports of a Chinese state policy of intrusive birth prevention, including female sterilisation.
“This may indicate that the Chinese government is pursuing and enforcing a coordinated policy to reduce the population of minority groups. The world cannot remain silent in the face of unfolding atrocities,” said the statement by IPAC, a cross-party international group of politicians, including Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith and Baroness Helena Kennedy QC.
The findings by Professor Zenz, an independent contractor with the nonprofit Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, shows that population growth rates fell by 84% in the two largest Uighur prefectures between 2015 and 2018, declining further in 2019.
The report links the drop to state-driven efforts to forcibly suppress Uighur birthrates relative to the numbers of ethnic Han Chinese, using measures that include mandatory birth control, family separations and sterilisations.
“Since a sweeping crackdown starting in late 2016 transformed Xinjiang into a draconian police state, witness accounts of intrusive state interference into reproductive autonomy have become ubiquitous,” it claims, adding that anecdotal accounts have been confirmed for the first time through “a systematic analysis of government documents.”
According to the research, “documents bluntly mandate that birth control violations are punishable by extrajudicial internment in “training” camps” and “reveal plans for a campaign of mass female sterilisation in rural Uighur regions, targeting married women of childbearing age.
Among the conclusions, it claims the project targeted southern Xinjiang and continued in 2020, likely aiming to sterilise women with three or more children.
“Budget figures indicate that this project had sufficient funding for performing hundreds of thousands of tubal ligation sterilisation procedures in 2019 and 2020, with least one region receiving additional central government funding,” it reports.
It adds that by 2019, Xinjiang planned to subject at least 80% of women of childbearing age in the rural southern four minority prefectures to intrusive birth prevention surgeries -IUDs or sterilisations – and reveals that in 2018, 80% of all new IUD placements in China were performed in Xinjiang.
“This is part of a wider control campaign to subjugate the Uighurs,” Mr Zenz told the Associated Press.
The practice of forced birth control is far more widespread and systematic than previously known, according to the AP’s own investigation based on government statistics, state documents and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members and a former detention camp instructor.
They include women like Gulnar Omirzakh, a Chinese-born Kazakh, who was ordered by the government to get an IUD inserted after she had her third child.
Four officials in military camouflage also came knocking at her door to threaten Ms Omirzakh, the penniless wife of a detained vegetable trader, with a $2,685 fine for having more than two children. Failure to pay, they warned would result in her incarceration in an internment camp.
“To prevent people from having children is wrong," Ms Omirzakh told the newswire. She fell deep in debt to scrape together the money and later fled to Kazakhstan. "They want to destroy us as a people."
Having too many children is a major reason people are sent to detention camps, the AP found, with the parents of three or more ripped away from their families unless they can pay huge fines.
The campaign over the past four years in the far west region of Xinjiang has prompted some experts to call it a form a form of “demographic genocide.”
The interviews and data reportedly show that women are even subjected to forced abortions, and that the hundreds of millions of dollars the government pours into birth control have transformed Xinjiang from one of China's fastest-growing regions into one of its slowest in just a few years.
One former camp detainee, Tursunay Ziyawudun, said she was injected until she stopped having her period and kicked repeatedly in the lower stomach during interrogations. She now can't have children and often doubles over in pain, bleeding from her womb, she said.
Ms Ziyawudun said women at her camp were made to undergo gynecology exams and get IUDs, and their "teacher" told them they would face abortions if found pregnant.
Zumret Dawut, a Uighur mother of three, said after her release from an internment camp in 2018, authorities forced her to get sterilised. If she didn't, they told her she'd be sent back to the camp. "I was so angry," she said. "I wanted another son."
The Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Xinjiang government have not responded to the reports. However, Beijing has said in the past that the new measures are merely meant to be fair, allowing both Han Chinese and ethnic minorities the same number of children.