China Forces Birth Control On Muslim Uighurs To Suppress Population
The Chinese government is reportedly forcing birth control on Uighurs and other minorities in an effort to suppress its Muslim population.
The campaign is said to have been going on for four years, and while women have spoken out about the issue before, the true scale of it has only recently come to light.
An investigation conducted by AP News considered government statistics and state documents, as well as interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members and a former detention camp instructor, and found the state regularly subjects thousands of minority women to pregnancy checks, as well as forcing intrauterine devices, sterilisation and even abortion upon them.
If minority women defy the population control measures, they can be torn from their families and sent to detention camps, or otherwise face huge fines.
Gulnar Omirzakh, a Chinese-born Kazakh woman, was ordered to have an IUD inserted after giving birth to her third child.
She complied, but two years later four officials dressed in military camouflage arrived at her door and told her she had three days to pay a $2,685 fine for having more than two children. If she didn’t, they warned, she would join her husband and a million other ethnic minorities locked up in internment camps.
God bequeaths children on you. To prevent people from having children is wrong. They want to destroy us as a people.
As a result of the government’s campaign, birth rates in the mostly Uighur regions of Hotan and Kashgar plunged by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018. Rates continue to fall across the Xinjiang region, dropping nearly 24% last year alone, compared to just 4.2% nationwide, AP News reports.
The government pours hundreds of millions of dollars into its birth control measures, and has transformed Xinjiang from one of China’s fastest-growing regions to among its slowest in just a few years, according to research by China scholar Adrian Zenz.
Zenz, who is a leading expert in the policing of China’s minority regions, said there was a ‘ruthlessness’ to the campaign, saying:
This kind of drop is unprecedented. This is part of a wider control campaign to subjugate the Uighurs.
Sterilisation rates plunged in the rest of the country, but they surged seven-fold in Xinjiang from 2016 to 2018, increasing to more than 60,000 procedures. The Uighur-majority city of Hotan budgeted for 14,872 sterilisations in 2019, which works out at about 34% of all married women of childbearing age, Zenz found.
Though China used to encourage contraceptives, sterilisation and abortion on Han Chinese people – the largest ethnic group in China – in order to adhere to its ‘one child’ policy, minorities were allowed two children, or three if they came from the countryside.
After President Xi Jinping came into office, the government declared Han Chinese could have two or three children, like minorities, however it seems Han Chinese are largely spared the preventative practises that are forced on Xinjiang’s other ethnicities.
Omirzakh is a perfect example of how some rural Muslims are still punished for having three children, even though it is allowed by the law.
Some experts believe the birth control campaign is part of a state-orchestrated assault on the Uighurs in an attempt to purge them of their faith and identity, and forcibly assimilate them.
Darren Byler, an expert on Uighurs at the University of Colorado, said the practice will ‘diminish’ the vitality of Uighurs, while Joanne Smith Finley, from Newcastle University in the UK, described the process as ‘genocide, full stop.’
A total of fifteen Uighurs and Kazakhs told AP News they knew people who had either been interned or jailed for having too many children, with some receiving years or even decades in prison.
Data shows that of 484 camp detainees listed in Karakax county in Xinjiang, 149 were there for having too many children. Fines for having too many children also apply to Han Chinese, though interviews and data suggest only minorities are sent to the detention camps if they cannot afford to pay.
Former detainees said women in the detention camps are subjected to forced IUDs and what appear to be pregnancy prevention shots, with some saying they were force-fed birth control pills or injected with fluids, often with no explanation.
After being released, some went to get medical check-ups and found they were sterile.
In spite of the evidence of dropping birth rates, China’s foreign ministry argued the news had been ‘fabricated’, claiming the government treats all ethnicities equally and protects the legal rights of minorities.
Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said everyone must follow the law, ‘regardless of whether they’re an ethnic minority or Han Chinese’.
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