China Claims Brutal Crackdown on Uyghur Birth Rate Has "Emancipated" Women

Steven Mosher
by PRI Staff
January 14, 2021
Reproduced with Permission
Population Research Institute

The Chinese embassy last week tweeted that the women of that country's persecuted Uyghur minority were "no longer baby-making machines" because their "minds have been emancipated."

PRI President Steven Mosher begs to differ, saying that the real reason that Uyghur women are having fewer children is the draconian population control program underway in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in China's far west.

"What is really taking Uyghur women out of the baby-making business are two things," commented Mosher. "The first is the fact that many of their husbands are currently locked up in concentration camps, forced to work long hours producing cheap Chinese goods for export. The second factor is that Uyghur women who have two children are subject to forced abortions and forced sterilizations if they conceive a third."

"To call this 'gender equality' is laughable," continued Mosher. "This is Chinese Communist propaganda mimicking the language of Western feminists in a clumsy effort to disguise their ongoing genocide of the Uyghur people."

The Chinese embassy's tweet was linked to an article that appeared in the communist party mouthpiece the China Daily touting recent "study" published by the state-affiliated Xinjiang Development Research Center. The study insisted that the sharp drop in the birth rate among Uyghur women in recent years was "not caused by 'forced sterilization' of the Uyghur population."

The tweet, since deleted, read: "Study shows that in the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uyghur women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines. They are more confident and independent."

Twitter deleted the tweet by the Chinese embassy in the US that boasted of their regime’s genocide and trauma-inducing program on Uyghur women that included forced abortions, sterilizations, and IUDs.

Just how bad are things in the Chinese-occupied territory?

A report from the Associated Press (AP) last June interviewed 30 survivors from internment camps in Xinjiang and their family members who had fled Xinjiang and verified reports that the Chinese government has subjected large numbers of Uyghur women to forced sterilization, forced abortion, forced IUD fitting, and mandatory periodic gynecological exams and pregnancy tests. Reporting from the AP also revealed reports that police have conducted searches of private residences for "illegal" children and pregnancies. Couples who were found to have exceeded their birth quota were punished with crushing fines more than 3 times their annual income or were taken away to internment camps.

Under China's two-child policy, Uyghur couples in Xinjiang are prohibited from having more than two children if they live in urban areas and more than three children if they live in rural areas. Women found pregnant with an out-of-quota child or pregnant too soon after the birth of their last child are punished with crushing fines equal to more than three times their annual income and are forced to undergo an abortion.

But overzealous Chinese officials, who look down on the Uyghur people as "lazy" and "backward," often punish women who are still within their government-allotted child quota. The AP reported last summer that a Uyghur woman living in a rural area was forcibly fitted with an IUD even though she only had three children as is allowed for rural women. Another woman interviewed by The Guardian said she had been forced by the Chinese government to undergo sterilization at 50 years of age, even though she only had one child and had already been forcibly fitted with an IUD only 2 years prior.

The Chinese government's clampdown on Uyghur births is part of a broader crackdown on ethnic minorities in Xinjiang as the government attempts to Sinicize ethnic Uyghurs, Kazaks, and other predominately Muslim ethnic minorities under the guise of combatting religious extremism, eliminating their language and cultural identity in the process.

Beginning in 2017, the Chinese government began rounding up and detaining persons showing signs of so-called religious extremism such as having "abnormal beards or unusual names," uttering traditional daily greetings, wearing a full-face headscarf, abstaining from alcohol, wanting to go on a religious pilgrimage, or even attending a funeral.

Once inside the camps, detainees have been forced to recite songs and slogans praising the Communist Party, forced to eat pork against their religious beliefs, banned from praying, and subjected to brainwashing, enforced silence, constant video surveillance, and relentless pressure to renounce their customs and culture. There have been reports that women have been forced en masse to be fitted with IUDs or were forced to receive injections in their arms after which their periods stopped. Survivors have revealed horrifying accounts of torture, beating, electrocution, unsanitary, overcrowded prison cells, being chained to a bed for 20 days as punishment, forced to perform military-style marches, and disappearances.

One internment camp survivor interviewed for the AP's report last summer told reporters that she was given injections until she stopped having periods and was kicked repeatedly in the lower abdomen during interrogations. She has since suffered from debilitating abdominal pain.

According to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, estimates for the number of people detained in Xinjiang's "re-education camps" range from "tens of thousands to over a million." After initially denying the existence of these camps, the Chinese government now claims they are "vocational skills and educational training centres." It has refused to say how many people have been detained in these camps.

The Chinese embassy in the U.S. has received widespread condemnation on social media for its tweets attempting to justify its population control crackdown on Uyghur women.

Morgan Ortagus, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, blasted the Chinese embassy's tweet, posting a message saying, "The Chinese Communist Party's chauvinism and racism towards Uyghurs knows no limit. Let's call this what it is - cultural eradication through forced abortion, forced sterilization, unjust imprisonment, and torture."

Twitter, which recently deleted President Trump's entire account for political reasons, initially found nothing wrong with the Chinese government's post. It was only after widespread condemnation on social media and questioning from journalists that Twitter decided that the post should come down. A spokeswoman from Twitter told online media outlet Ars Technica that the Chinese embassy's tweet was taken down for violating Twitter rules banning "'dehumanization of a group of people based on' their religion, race, or ethnicity."

After Twitter banned the post, the Chinese embassy brazenly reposted the story again, posting a link to a similar article that had been published by the Chinese government-owned Xinhua News Agency. The Chinese embassy's new post now reads: "Study shows the population change in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region involves the overall improvement in population quality. An increasing number of youths chose to spend more time and energy on personal development."

Study shows the population change in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region involves the overall improvement in population quality. An increasing number of youths chose to spend more time and energy on personal development. --Chinese Embassy in US

Twitter users have likewise responded with outrage to the Chinese embassy's new post, many noting the post's refence to "improvement in population quality" as openly condoning genocide and ethnic cleansing through forced sterilization, forced abortion, and forced IUD placement. Article II of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group" including by "Imposing measures intended to prevent births." China is legally bound by international law to abide by the terms of the Convention.

The Chinese embassy's normally active and busy Twitter account has not put out a tweet since January 8th. Twitter has still not made any move to ban the Chinese embassy's more recent post glorifying the government's efforts to make "improvement[s] in population quality" in Xinjiang.

This past June, as part of a report put out by German researcher Adrian Zenz, it was revealed that government documents from the Hejing County Government in Xinjiang contained directives for officials to carry out "dragnet-style" investigations into 'illegal' births and pregnancies that "leave no blind spots." Other government documents found by Zenz called for officials to "severely attack behaviors that violate family planning [policies]." One government report for Qapqal County, noted that the government had identified 629 policy violations over the span of just 5 months, and claiming that it was "resolutely winning the assault on the battlefield of illegal births." Adrian Zenz is a non-resident Senior Fellow in China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C. and one of the world's foremost scholars on human rights abuses perpetrated by the Chinese government in Tibet and Xinjiang.

Zenz's research also uncovered government documents from the Xinjiang Health Commission that had set a target for at least 80% of women of childbearing age in four rural mostly-minority prefectures in southern Xinjiang be subjected to "birth control measures with long-term effectiveness." While the number of sterilizations per 1,000 have sharply declined since 2015 in the rest of China, in Xinjiang they have increased by more than seven-fold, data calculated by Zenz has shown.

Crude birth rate data from the National Bureau of Statistics of the People's Republic of China reveals that birth rates in Xinjiang have sharply declined since the Chinese government's crackdown and mass internment of Muslim minorities began in 2017. Crude birth rates in Xinjiang compared to the rest of the country are shown in the chart below that was originally compiled by the Population Research Institute last summer.

PRI does not expect that Twitter will permanently ban the Chinese government account despite these repeated violations. That punishment is reserved for pro-life, pro-family conservatives.