A Uyghur man at a bus in the city of Kashgar, Xinjiang, China
A searing report from an American think tank has accused China of genocidal population control over Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region.
An outraged US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that allegations that the Chinese Communist Party is using forced sterilisation, forced abortion and coercive family planning against the Uyghurs is “shocking” and “disturbing”.
Information gathered by German researcher Adrian Zenz and published by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation outlines this human rights tragedy.
Zenz’s findings are set out in “Sterilizations, IUDs, and Mandatory Birth Control: The CCP’s Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birthrates in Xinjiang”. He claims that the CCP is enforcing population control on the Uyghurs long after it was shown to be economically counter-productive amongst the majority Han people. The most plausible explanation for this behaviour is that it is trying to eliminate the Uyghur culture, religion and people. In short – genocide.
Admittedly, some Uyghurs have joined Islamic terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. There have been some terrorist attacks within China, as well. However, a security risk posed by a tiny number of fanatics is no excuse for the CCP’s treatment of a whole people.
Up until now the world was only aware that an estimated 1 million Uyghur men are being detained in re-education camps. Now it appears clear that the government is attacking women as well.
According to the report, which is based on original Chinese-language source materials, natural population growth in Xinjiang has declined dramatically. Growth rates fell by 84% in the two largest Uyghur prefectures between 2015 and 2018, and declined further in 2019.
Government documents state bluntly that birth control violations are punishable by extrajudicial internment in “training” camps.
Documents from 2019 reveal plans for a campaign of mass female sterilization in rural Uyghur regions, targeting 14 and 34% of all married women of childbearing age in two Uyghur counties that year. This project targeted all of southern Xinjiang, and continued in 2020 with increased funding.
This campaign likely aims to sterilize rural minority women with three or more children, as well as some with two children—equivalent to at least 20% of all childbearing-age women.
In 2018, 80% of all new IUD placements in China were performed in Xinjiang, despite the fact that the region only makes up 1.8% of the nation’s population.
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 sterilizations), with actual shares likely being much higher.
Between 2015 and 2018, about 860,000 ethnic Han residents left Xinjiang, while up to 2 million new residents were added to Xinjiang’s Han majority regions. Also, population growth rates in a Uyghur region where Han constitute the majority were nearly 8 times higher than in the surrounding rural Uyghur regions (in 2018). These figures raise concerns that Beijing is doubling down on a policy of Han settler colonialism.
Xinjiang’s Han Chinese academic and government circles have consistently described minority population growth as “excessive”. According to a paper published in April 2017 by Director of the Institute of Sociology at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, Li Xiaoxia, argued in an article published in 2017 that the rapid growth of the Uyghur population is clearly a security threat.
Li contended that “excessive population growth” leads to poverty and unmet material desires lead to “religious extremism and splittism.” Li charges Uyghurs with ignoring “economic benefits,” instead giving in to “religious hopes” and the “psychological needs of nationalism.”
Another publication cited by Zenz states that high birth rates in southern Xinjiang are connected with religious beliefs, such as that “the foetus is a gift from Allah, and you cannot control birth and abortion at will”. Yet another notes that “it is undeniable that the wave of extremist religious thinking has fuelled a resurgence in birth rates in Xinjiang’s southern regions with concentrated Uyghur populations”.
Taken as a whole, these findings, Zenz writes, provide the strongest evidence yet that Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang are genocidal. One of the genocide criteria cited in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the [targeted] group”.
Unsurprisingly, China has indignantly denied the allegations in Zenz’s report and Pompeo’s “lies”. The official government outlet China Daily has accused Zenz of being “far-right” and a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry reminded the US of its abominable treatment of Native Americans since Columbus. “We urge the US politicians such as Pompeo to take off their coloured spectacles, and to abandon double standards, take their own racial discrimination problems seriously… and stop smearing China’s domestic affairs,” he said.
Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge
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