China is forcing women to be sterilized or equipped with contraceptive devices in Xinjiang, in an apparent attempt to limit the population of Muslim Uighurs, according to new research.
The report, by China scholar Adrian Zenz, led to international calls for the UN to investigate.
China denies the report’s claims, calling them “unfounded”.
The state is already facing widespread criticism for keeping Uighurs in detention camps.
There are believed to be about a million Uighurs and other minority Muslim majority detained in China, in what the state defines as “re-education” camps.
China previously denied the existence of the camps, before defending them as a necessary measure against terrorism, following separatist violence in the Xinjiang region.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has asked China to “end these horrible practices immediately”.
In a statement, he called for “all nations to join the United States in demanding an end to these inhuman abuses”.
China has faced increasing global scrutiny over the treatment of Uighurs in recent years. A BBC investigation in 2019 suggested that children in Xinjiang were being systematically separated from their families in an effort to isolate them from their Muslim communities.
What’s in the report?
Mr. Zenz’s report was based on a combination of official regional data, policy documents and interviews with ethnic minority women in Xinjiang.
She claims that Uighur women and other ethnic minorities are being threatened with internment in the camps for refusing to abort pregnancies that exceed birth rates.
He also says that women who had less than two legally permitted children were unintentionally equipped with intrauterine devices (IUDs), while others were coerced into sterilization surgery.
“Since a comprehensive crackdown, initiated in late 2016, turned Xinjiang into a draconian police state, testimonies of the state’s intrusive interference with reproductive autonomy have become ubiquitous,” says the report.
According to the Zenz data analysis, natural population growth in Xinjiang has fallen dramatically in recent years, with growth rates falling 84% in the two largest Uighur prefectures between 2015 and 2018 and falling further in 2019.
“This type of fall is unprecedented, there is cruelty,” Zenz told the Associated Press. “This is part of a broader control campaign to subdue Uighurs.”
Ex-detainees in concentration camps in Xinjiang said they received injections that stopped menstruation or caused unusual bleeding, consistent with the effects of contraceptive drugs.
“Overall, the Xinjiang authorities are likely to be involved in the mass sterilization of women with three or more children,” the report said.
Politicians call for UN investigation
In a statement released on Monday, the Interparliamentary Alliance of China (IPAC), an international group of political parties including Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC and US Senator Marco Rubio, urged the UN to “establish an international agreement”, impartial and independent investigation of the situation in the Xinjiang region “.
“There is now a growing body of evidence, alleging mass incarceration, indoctrination, extrajudicial detention, invasive surveillance, forced labor and the destruction of Uighur cultural sites, including cemeteries, along with other forms of abuse,” the statement said.
“The world cannot remain silent in the face of the atrocities that unfold. Our countries are bound by solemn obligations to prevent and punish any effort to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group ‘in whole or in part'”.
According to an Associated Press report published on Monday, women in Xinjiang faced exorbitant fines and threats of hospitalization for violating the limits of pregnancy.
Gulnar Omirzakh, a Kazakh born in China, was ordered to insert an IUD after having his third child, the AP reported. Two years later, in January 2018, four officers in military camouflage knocked on the door anyway and handed Omirzakh, the cashless wife of a vegetable merchant, three days to pay a fine of 17,500 RMB (£ 2,000) for have more than two children.
She would have been advised that she would join her husband in an internment camp if she refused to pay.
“God leaves children in you. Preventing people from having children is wrong,” Omirzakh told the AP. “They want to destroy us as a people.”
Responding to the report on Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry said the allegations were “unfounded” and showed “ulterior motives”.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused the media of “creating false information on issues related to Xinjiang”.
For decades, under China’s one-child policy, urban minorities have received two children, or three for rural families. A 2017 policy change under President Xi Jinping removed the ethnic distinction, allowing Han Chinese to have the same number of children as minorities, while preserving the urban-rural distinction.
But, according to the AP, the Han Chinese were largely spared from abortions, sterilizations, IUD insertions and detentions implemented against minority populations, including Uighurs.
Zenz’s report characterizes the alleged coercive birth control campaign in Xinjiang as part of a “demographic genocide campaign” against Uighurs.
“These findings provide the strongest evidence that Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang meet one of the genocide criteria cited in the United Nations Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” he writes.