The Chinese government is subjecting hundreds of thousands of women to forced birth control methods as part of its campaign to decrease birth rates among Uighurs and other ethnic minorities, according to a report by the Associated Press. This campaign is one part of the country’s far-reaching attack on its Muslim population.
In the far west Uighur-majority region of Xinjiang, minority women are being subjected to pregnancy checks and forced intrauterine devices, sterilizations, and abortions while the country’s Han majority are being incentivized to have children. The widespread, systematic campaign amounts to what some experts are calling “demographic genocide.”
“It’s genocide, full stop. It’s not immediate, shocking, mass-killing on the spot type genocide, but it’s slow, painful, creeping genocide,” said Joanne Smith Finley, a professor at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom. “These are direct means of genetically reducing the Uighur population.”
According to government statistics and state documents, China is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into increasing birth control use among minorities, particularly in Xinjiang. While sterilization rates dropped dramatically in the rest of the country, they increased seven-fold in Xinjiang from 2016 to 2018. During that same period, the number of IUDs inserted yearly in Xinjiang increased more than 60 percent from 200,000 to 330,000.
As a result, birth rates in Xinjiang decreased by nearly 24 percent in 2019 alone – compared to 4.2 percent nationwide. Birth rates in the Uighur-dominated regions of Hotan and Kashgar also plummeted more than 60 percent from 2015 to 2018.
Authorities use detainment in internment camps both as a threat and as punishment for failure to comply. The AP found that having lots of children, which is considered a “sign of religious extremism,” is a major reason why people are sent to Chinese internment camps.
Once in internment camps, people are subjected to forced labor and political and religious re-education curriculum, including lectures on how many children they should have. Women are routinely force-fed birth control pills, injected with unknown fluids they believe to be Depo-Provera, given IUDs, and forcibly sterilized.
On Monday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman called the AP report “fake news.” Government authorities have previously said that the new population control measures are meant to allow Han Chinese and minorities to have an equal number of children.
Before President Xi Jinping came to power, China had one of the world’s most extensive minority entitlement systems, which included laxer birth control restrictions. Under China’s one-child policy, government officials incentivized and often forced Han women to use contraceptives, undergo sterilization, and obtain abortions after having one child. But ethnic minorities, including Uighurs, were permitted two children – three if they came from the rural countryside.
Those benefits have since been rolled back and replaced with a state-orchestrated campaign to forcibly assimilate Uighurs in internment camps.
Zumret Dawut, a former detainee who was unknowingly sterilized, believes that this draconian birth control program is an essential part of the campaign to eliminate Uighurs.
“They want to eliminate us, but they can’t kill all of us,” she said. “They’re doing it step by step with policies such as sterilization, imprisonment, and separating men and women and making them work as forced laborers.”
Sources: AP News 6/29/2020; Aljazeera 6/29/2020; CBS News 6/29/2020