The Chinese government is taking draconian measures to slash birth rates among Uighurs and other minorities as part of a sweeping campaign to curb its Muslim population, even as it encourages some of the country’s Han majority to have more children.
While individual women have spoken out before about forced birth control, the practice is far more widespread and systematic than previously known, according to an AP investigation based on government statistics, state documents and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members and a former detention camp instructor. The campaign over the past four years in the far west region of Xinjiang is leading to what some experts are calling a form of “demographic genocide”.
The state regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilisation and even abortion on hundreds of thousands, the interviews and data show. Even while the use of IUDs and sterilisation has fallen nationwide, it is rising sharply in Xinjiang.
The population control measures are backed by mass detention both as a threat and as a punishment for failure to comply. Having too many children is a major reason people are sent to detention camps, AP found, with the parents of three or more ripped away from their families unless they can pay huge fines.
Birth rates in the mostly Uighur regions of Hotan and Kashgar plunged by more than 60 per cent from 2015 to 2018, the latest year available in government statistics. The hundreds of millions of dollars the government pours into birth control have transformed Xinjiang from one of China’s fastest-growing regions into one of its slowest in just a few years, according to new research obtained by AP in advance of publication by China scholar Adrian Zenz.
“This is part of a wider control campaign to subjugate the Uighurs,” said Zenz, an independent contractor with the non-profit Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington.