The Chinese government is believed to forcing birth control on Uighurs and other minorities in an effort to suppress its population.
The campaign is reportedly been going on for four years, and while women have spoken out about it before, the true extent of it has only come to light recently.
AP News conducted an investigation about government statistics and state documents, including interviews with 30 ex-detainees, former detention camp instructors, family members, and found the state regularly subjects thousands of minority women to pregnancy checks, as well as enforcing sterilization and even abortion upon them.
If minority women didn’t follow the population control measures, they can be sent to detention camps, or face huge fines.
According to AP News, birth rates in the mostly Uighur regions of Hotan and Kashgar plummeted by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018 as a result of the Chinese government’s campaign. Rates continue to drop across the Xinjiang region, falling nearly 24% in the last year alone, compared to just 4.2% nationwide.
Based on a research by China scholar Adrian Zenz, the government pours hundreds of millions of dollars into its population control measures and has transformed Xinjiang from one of China’s fastest-growing regions to among its slowest in just a few years.
“This kind of drop is unprecedented. This is part of a wider control campaign to subjugate the Uighurs,” Zenz said.
Zenz, who is a leading expert in the policing of China’s minority regions, said there was a ‘ruthlessness’ to the campaign.
Moreover, sterilization rates dropped in China, but they surged seven-fold in Xinjiang from 2016 to 2018, increasing to more than 60,000 procedures.
Zenz’s research also found that the Uighur-majority city of Hotan budgeted for 14,872 sterilizations in 2019, which works out at about 34% of all married women of childbearing age.
Even though China used to encourage abortion, contraceptives, and sterilization on Han Chinese people, in order to comply with its ‘one-child’ policy, minorities were allowed two children, or three if they came from the countryside.
Some experts believe the population control campaign is part of a state-orchestrated assault on the Uighurs in an attempt to purge them of their faith and identity and assimilate them forcibly.
Despite the evidence of plunging birth rates, China’s foreign ministry argued the news had been ‘fabricated’, claiming the government treats all ethnicities equally and protects the legal rights of minorities.