‘Demographic genocide’ in Xinjiang

Domestic News

The latest depressing report about the plight of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang comes from the Associated Press, which reports on a “widespread and systematic” campaign of forced birth control. Some experts are calling the campaign “demographic genocide."

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SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng

Since 2017, a mass of evidence has emerged of China’s repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the far western “autonomous region” of Xinjiang. The latest depressing report about the plight of the Uyghurs comes from the Associated Press (AP), which reports on a “widespread and systematic” campaign of forced birth control.

Some experts are calling the campaign “demographic genocide,” according to the AP, whose investigation is “based on government statistics, state documents and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members and a former detention camp instructor.”

Hundreds of thousands of minority women in Xinjiang are regularly subjected to pregnancy checks, forced use of “intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion…even while the use of IUDs and sterilization has fallen nationwide, it is rising sharply in Xinjiang.”

Throughout the years of the one-child policy, which was rolled out nationwide in 1980, “China had one of the most extensive systems of minority entitlements in the world, with Uyghurs and others getting more points on college entrance exams, hiring quotas for government posts and laxer birth control restrictions.” Minorities were allowed two children — three for those from the countryside — while most Han Chinese women faced forced contraceptiion, sterilization, or abortion if they conceived a second or third child.

That all changed after the ascent of Xí Jìnpíng 习近平. The one-child policy was relaxed for Han Chinese, but family planning restrictions are now in force in Xinjiang, “backed by mass detention both as a threat and as a punishment for failure to comply.” Having too many children is a significant reason Uyghurs are sent to detention camps, according to the AP. This has resulted in “a climate of terror around having children, as seen in interview after interview,” while birth rates in the Uyghur cultural centers of of Hotan and Kashgar “plunged by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018, the latest year available in government statistics,” while across the Xinjiang region, birth rates fell “nearly 24% last year alone — compared to just 4.2% nationwide, statistics show.”

“The intention may not be to fully eliminate the Uyghur population, but it will sharply diminish their vitality,” said Darren Byler, an expert on Uyghurs at the University of Colorado and SupChina’s columnist on Uyghur affairs. “It will make them easier to assimilate into the mainstream Chinese population,” he said.

The story corroborates earlier leaked data from Karakax County, Xinjiang, where the most frequent crimes leading to Muslims being detained had nothing to do with supposed extremism, but rather with normal religious and cultural practices. The most frequent citation was, in fact, “violation of family planning policies.”