Written by Wali Ahmed & Nawal Qadir
China has allegedly been forcefully subjecting Uyghur women to various birth control methods in an attempt to reduce and eliminate the minority population, according to a report by China specialist Adrian Zenz. The news comes as Uyghurs continue to be detained in concentration camps in Xinjiang. It is believed that approximately one million Uyghur people, as well as other minority groups, are being held in what China refers to as “re-education” camps.
China has responded by calling it “fake news,” stating that the allegations are “baseless.” However, China had initially denied the existence of the detention camps before justifying them as a “necessary measure against terrorism.”
Zenz’s report states that since 2016, reproductive autonomy and its associated human rights have continuously been interfered with in Xinjiang. Uyghur women who refuse to abort pregnancies that exceed the quota of two children are threatened to be forced into internment camps. It additionally states that women with fewer than two children were forced to have sterilization surgeries or take intra-uterine devices (IUDs). Formerly detained individuals also say that they were given injections to halt their periods.
However, the Han Chinese population are reportedly spared the various birth control measures forced on Xinjiang’s ethnic minorities.
An investigation by AP News has found that the humanitarian violations are far more widespread and systemic than previously thought. The investigation shows that the current treatment of Uyghur Muslims in these camps could amount to “demographic genocide,” meaning that China could successfully and covertly eradicate the Uyghur population in just a few generations. “This is part of a wider control campaign to subjugate the Uyghurs,” Zenz said. “Overall, it is likely that Xinjiang authorities are engaging in the mass sterilization of women with three or more children.”
Joanne Smith Finley, Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies at Newcastle University goes further, saying ““It’s genocide, full stop.” “It’s not immediate, shocking, mass-killing on the spot type genocide – but it’s slow, painful, creeping genocide.”
Adrian Zenz’s data suggests that the natural population growth in predominantly Uyghur regions has fallen by more than 60% between 2015 and 2018, a drop which he describes as “unprecedented” and “ruthless.”
“These findings provide the strongest evidence yet that Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang meet one of the genocide criteria cited in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” says Zenz in his report.
One former Uyghur detainee, Zumret Dawut, was forcibly sterilized along with 200 others. Dawut was put into an internment camp for two months for holding an American visa. She had later returned home but was placed under house arrest, was forced to have gynaecological exams on a monthly basis, and was threatened to be placed in a camp again should she not comply.
“They want to eliminate us, but they can’t kill all of us,” she said. “They’re doing it step by step with policies such as sterilization, imprisonment, separating men and women and making them work as forced laborers.”
Forced sterilization isn’t a new trend for China, which for a long time had a one-child-per-household policy. However, in recent years, and especially under President Xi Jinping, the sterilization programs have been concentrated in the Uyghur minority areas, turning the countryside region of Xinjiang from one of the fastest growing populations in China to the slowest in just a few years.
The news of forced birth control methods come as an addition to the internment and forced labour in Uyghur detention camps, as well as the separation of Uyghur children from their parents in order to indoctrinate them, practices that have been widely criticized by human rights organizations around the world, and which China continues to deny or defend.