Reports Reveal China’s Campaign to Forcibly Sterilize Uyghur Women
Reports and victim testimonies have brought to light a mass forced-sterilization campaign undertaken by the Chinese government against the Uyghur people.
Many Uyghur women have recounted having their fallopian tubes forcibly cut or having IUDs inserted against their will. Others, after being taken to one of China’s “re-education camps” for the Uyghur people, have described being raped or injected with an unknown substance that stopped their periods.
Reports have also surfaced of the Chinese government forcibly aborting the fetuses of many Uyghur women. After seeking asylum in other countries, many of these women have been told that some of these measures have left them sterilized. Critics argue that the Chinese government’s actions are not only human rights violations, but meet the United Nation’s definition of genocide.
The Uyghurs are an ethnic minority, 11 million of whom reside in Xinjian, a northwestern region of China. Uyghurs are ethnically separate from Han Chinese, which makes up the majority of the Chinese population. They speak their own language and practice a variation of Sunni Islam. In recent years, the Chinese government has cracked down on the Uyghur population, forcibly placing many in “re-education camps” and instituting restrictive laws and surveillance procedures.
Since April 2017, the U.S. State Department believes more than 2 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and others who practice Islam have been detained in these “re-education camps.” A number of women have been explicitly placed in these camps for having too many children, and recount harrowing stories of abuse while inside. The Chinese government justifies these actions by claiming that they have been undertaken in order to prevent terrorism.
While these practices began in 2015, recent reports by the Associated Press and German researcher Adrian Zenze have revealed that the extent of the Chinese government’s forced birth-control measures against Uyghur women is much larger than was previously believed. The number of IUDs being inserted in Xinjian has increased by over 60% from 2014 –2018, with almost 330,000 women having had an IUD inserted in 2018. The rates of IUD insertion in the rest of China have dropped significantly over this same period.
Birth rates in the region have also dropped by 24% in the last year, compared to the 4.2% decrease in birth rate nationwide. While only 3,214 sterilizations were performed in Xinjian in 2014, 60,440 were performed in 2018. All of these metrics point to a mass-campaign on the part of the Chinese government to forcibly decrease the Uyghur population.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly denied the reports. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented that the acts “demonstrate an utter disregard for the sanctity of human life and basic human dignity.” He asked other countries to join the United States in “demanding an end to these dehumanizing abuses.” In response, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, Zhao Lijian, called Secretary Pompeo “a brazen liar.”
Sources: CNN 7/31/20; the Independent 10/6/19; Vox 7/28/20; CBS News 11/27/18; Associated Press 6/29/20; CBS News 6/30/20