The Chinese authorities are taking drastic measures to reduce birth rates in the Uighur community and other minorities. This policy aims to bring down the Muslim population in the country, according to an AP agency survey.
Pregnancy tests, sterilization or forced abortions … An investigation by the Associated Press agency shows that a brutal childbirth campaign is being carried out in Xinjiang by the Chinese authorities against minorities, especially the Uyghur community, mainly Muslim, representing a little less than half of the 25 million people living in this region.
Based on statistics from the Chinese government, official documents and interviews with former female prisoners, these measures taken over the past four years can be described as “demographic genocide,” experts say.
The data collected shows that the Chinese state is exposing women from these minorities to pregnancy tests, forcing them to introduce IUDs, to be sterilized or to have an abortion. While the use of intrauterine devices and the number of sterilizations has diminished nationally, they are increasing in Xinjiang, the AP said in its survey published Monday, June 29.
“They want to destroy us as people”
These measures for population control are supported by threats of internment. AP journalists discovered that having “too many” children may be enough reason to be sent to a camp. Parents of three or more children are separated from their families if they cannot pay large fines.
After the birth of his third child, Gulnar Omirzakh, a Kazakhe born in China, was ordered by the government to carry an IUD. Two years later, in January 2018, four government officials dressed in military uniform knocked on his door. They gave her three days to pay a $ 2,685 fine for having more than two children, and warned her that if she refused, she could go with her husband to a camp, according to at least human rights organizations. one million Muslims are said to be interned in what they call political retraining camps.
“To prevent people from having children is not good,” said Gulnar Omirzakh, who had to go into debt to collect the money before fleeing to Kazakhstan. “They want to destroy us as people.”
Birth rates in the Hotan and Kashgar districts, mainly Uighurs, fell by 60% between 2015 and 2018, according to government statistics. The hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the government to control births have made Xinjiang one of the fastest growing regions in the country demographically one of the weakest in just a few years.
“This is part of a larger campaign to enslave the Uighurs,” analyzes academic Adrian Zenz, specialist in Xinjiang and Tibet.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Xinjiang Government have not responded to several requests from the AP. However, Beijing has previously stated that these measures are fair because they allow members of the Han community, the majority in China and minorities to have the same number of children.
During the one-child policy period, which was abandoned in 2015, the authorities encouraged, sometimes forced, measures for contraception, sterilization or abortion in Han Seindes, but minorities had the right to have two children and even three if they lived in the countryside.
These arrangements have changed since President Xi Jinping, one of the most authoritarian leaders in decades, came to power in 2013. Shortly after taking office, the government changed the rules on birth control by allowing Han to have two or three children, as well as the minorities.
Although it may seem equal on paper, in practice he often avoids abortions, sterilizations, placement of intrauterine units or even internment if they have “too many” children, unlike the minorities in Xinjiang. Members of Muslim communities living in rural areas such as Omirzakh have even been punished for having three children, although this is permitted by law.
Fifteen Uighurs and Kazakhs told the AP that they know people who have been interned or arrested for having “too many” children. Some have spent years in prison or decades. In these camps, women were subjected to the introduction of IUD or sterilization measures. In a France 24 report, Gulbahar Jalilova, a 54-year-old Uighur, who was arrested 15 months ago in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, was already under the same type of testimony. “We had to put our hand through a small opening in the door,” she said. “We quickly realized that after the injections, the women no longer menstruated.”
A former prisoner, Tursunay Ziyawudun, told a similar story to the AP. She also received injections that made her stop. She was also beaten in the stomach during interrogation. She can no longer have children. According to them, the women in the camp underwent gynecological examinations and the authorities warned them that they would risk a miscarriage if they became pregnant.
In 2014, more than 200,000 intrauterine units were placed in the Xinjiang region. Four years later, this figure had risen by 60% to 330,000 while at the same time falling in all other Chinese regions. State statistics have also shown an intensification of sterilizations in Xinjiang.
Zumret Dawut, a Uighur mother of three, said that after he was released from a detention camp in 2018, authorities forced him to be sterilized, or he would be detained again. “I was so angry,” she testified. “I wanted another son so bad”.
The Chinese authorities have launched this birth control campaign because they are worried that if the population grows exponentially, says AP, a push for poverty and extremism in Xinjiang, a huge territory long hit by murderous attacks attributed by Beijing to separatists and Islamists. But even though this program is reminiscent of the policy of solitary children, it differs from the old measures because it targets a very specific ethnic group, experts emphasize.
“The goal may not be to completely eliminate the Uyghur population, but it will significantly reduce their vitality and make it easier to assimilate,” analyzes Darren Byler, a Uighur specialist from the University of Colorado.
Other experts go even further. “It’s a genocide, period,” does not hesitate to summarize Joanne Smith Finley, who works at the University of Newcastle. “It’s not a shocking and instant mass killing, but it’s a genocide, slow, painful and progressive.”
With the Associated Press