China’s Repression of Uyghurs Is Not Only Cultural, but Also Physical, Says Report


Washington DC, May 17: Amid growing scrutiny over the human rights abuses by Chinese authorities, a new report has emerged, which based on China’s own government data, shows a precipitous drop in Uyghur birthrates in areas of southern Xinjiang in the northwest province of the country.

A report titled “Family De-planning: The Coercive Campaign to Drive Down Indigenous Birth-rates in Xinjiang” argues that the drop in Uyghur birth-rates appears to be the result of mass sterilization, coerced birth control and punitive family policies. Uyghur Genocide: China Denies Coercive Birth Control Measures Among Muslim Minority Women in Xinjiang.

The latest report authored by Nathan Ruser and James Leibold for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute echoes the groundbreaking report published last year by researcher Adrian Zenz for the Jamestown Foundation.

“Zenz showed how Uyghur birthrates had soared in the years before the crackdown, then nosedived. He reported that Uyghurs before 2015 commonly exceeded state limits on the number of children, resulting only in fines, but policies changed drastically starting in 2017, with widespread punishments for those who broke the limits,” the Washington Post said in an op-ed.

The new report provides evidence documenting the effectiveness of the Chinese government’s systematic efforts to reduce the size of the indigenous population of Xinjiang through a range of coercive birth-control policies.

Beginning in April 2017, Chinese Communist Party authorities in Xinjiang launched a series of “strike-hard” campaigns against “illegal births” with the explicit aim to “reduce and stabilise a moderate birth level” and decrease the birth-rate in southern Xinjiang by at least 4 per thousand from 2016 levels.

According to the report, the crackdown has led to an unprecedented and precipitous drop in official birth-rates in Xinjiang since 2017. The birth-rate across the region fell by nearly half (48.74 per cent) in the two years between 2017 and 2019. In 2017, the Chinese government’s approach to birth control among minority nationalities shifted from “reward and encourage” towards a more coercive and intrusive policing of reproduction processes. Hefty fines, disciplinary punishment, extrajudicial internment, or the threat of internment were introduced for any “illegal births”.

While the Chinese government argues it has adopted a uniform family-planning policy in Xinjiang, the county-level natality data suggests these policies are disproportionately affecting areas with a large indigenous population, meaning their application is discriminatory and applied with the intent of reducing the birth-rate of Uyghurs and other religious and ethnic minorities, the report said.

This policy also stands in stark contrast to the loosening of birth control restrictions elsewhere in China, the report added.

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