China’s birth control policies could cut between 2.6 and 4.5 million births of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in southern Xinjiang within 20 years, to a third of the planned minority population in the region, according to a new analysis of a German researcher.
The report, shared exclusively with Reuters before publication, also includes an unreported cache of research conducted by Chinese scientists and officials on Beijing̵
Adrian Zenz’s study comes amid growing calls among some Western countries to investigate whether China’s actions in Xinjiang constitute genocide, a charge Beijing strongly denies.
The Zenz study is the first such peer-reviewed analysis of the long-term impact on the population of Beijing’s years of repression in the western region. Human rights groups, researchers and some residents say the policies include newly introduced restrictions on the birth of Uighurs and other mainly Muslim ethnic minorities, transfers of workers to other regions and the internment of about one million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in a network of camps.
“This (research and analysis) really shows the intention behind the Chinese government’s long-term plan for the Uighur population,” Zenz told Reuters.
The Chinese government has not officially announced a goal to reduce the share of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. But based on an analysis of official birth data, demographics and ethnicity ratios proposed by Chinese scholars and officials, Zenz estimates that Beijing’s policy could increase China’s predominant population in southern Xinjiang to about 25 percent from 8.4 % now.
“This goal can only be achieved if they do what they have done, which drastically suppresses the (Uighur) birth rate,” Zenz said.
Earlier, China said that the current decline in the birth rate of ethnic minorities is due to the full implementation of existing birth quotas in the region, as well as development factors, including an increase in per capita income and wider access to services for family planning.
“The so-called ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang is pure nonsense,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement to Reuters. “This is a manifestation of the hidden motives of the anti-Chinese forces in the United States and the West and a manifestation of those who suffer from synophobia. “
Official data showing a decline in the birth rate in Xinjiang between 2017 and 2019 “does not reflect the real situation”, and the birth rate in Uighurs remains higher than the ethnic people of Khan in Xinjiang, the ministry added.
The new study compares a population forecast made by Xinjiang-based researchers for the government-run Chinese Academy of Sciences based on pre-repression data with official birth rates and what Beijing describes as measures to optimize the population for ethnicity. minorities in Xinjiang introduced in 2017.
It has been estimated that the population of ethnic minorities in Uighur-dominated southern Xinjiang will reach between 8.6-10.5 million by 2040, according to new birth control policies. This compares to 13.14 million provided by Chinese researchers using data before dating the birth and current population policies of about 9.47 million.
Zenz, an independent researcher at the Memorial to the Victims of Communism Foundation, a Washington-based bipartisan nonprofit, was previously condemned by Beijing for its research criticizing China’s policies to detain Uighurs, mass labor transfers and reduce of birth rates in Xinjiang.
China’s foreign ministry has accused Zenz of “misleading” people with data and said in response to Reuters that “his lies are not worth refuting.”
Zenz’s research was accepted for publication by the Central Asian Study, a quarterly academic journal, following a peer review on June 3rd.
Reuters shared the study and methodology with more than a dozen experts on population analysis, birth prevention policies and international human rights law, who said the analysis and conclusions were reliable.
Some experts have warned that demographic forecasts over decades may be influenced by unforeseen factors. The Xinjiang government has not publicly set official targets for ethnic quota or population size for the ethnic population in southern Xinjiang, and the quotas used in the analysis are based on data provided by Chinese officials and scientists.
“END OF UYGUR DOMINATION”
The move to prevent births among Uighurs and other minorities is in stark contrast to China’s broader birth policy.
Last week, Beijing announced that married couples could have three children, compared to two, the largest such policy change since the one-child policy was abolished in 2016 in response to China’s rapidly aging population. The communication does not contain a reference to specific ethnic groups.
Earlier, the measures formally limited Khan’s ethnic group and minority groups, including Uighurs, to two children – three in rural areas. However, Uighurs and other ethnic minorities have historically been partially excluded from these birth restrictions as part of preferential policies designed to benefit minority communities.
Some residents, researchers and human rights groups say the new rules now disproportionately affect Islamic minorities, who face detention for exceeding birth quotas rather than fines, as elsewhere in China.
In a Communist Party report that expired in 2020, also reported by Zenz, a re-education camp in Karakaks County in southern Xinjiang cited birth defects as reasons for internment in 149 of the 484 cases listed. China called the list a “fabrication.”
Birth quotas for ethnic minorities have been strictly enforced in Xinjiang since 2017, including through the separation of married couples and the use of sterilization procedures, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and abortions, three Uighurs and a health official in Xinjiang told Reuters.
Two of the Uighurs said they had direct family members who had been detained because of too many children. Reuters could not independently verify the arrests.
“It does not depend on the choice,” said the official, based in southern Xinjiang, who asked not to be named because he feared reprisals from local authorities. “All Uighurs have to comply … it’s an urgent task.”
The Xinjiang government has not responded to a request for comment on whether birth restrictions are more stringent against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities. Earlier, Xinjiang officials said all procedures were voluntary.
However, in Xinjiang counties, where Uighurs are the majority of the ethnic group, the birth rate fell by 50.1% in 2019, compared to a 19.7% decline in ethnic khan counties, according to official data compiled by Zenz. .
The Zenz report says analyzes published by state-funded academics and officials between 2014 and 2020 show that strict policy implementation is driven by national security concerns and is motivated by a desire to dilute the Uighur population. , to increase the migration of the khan and to increase loyalty to the ruling Communist Party.
For example, 15 documents created by state-funded academics and officials presented in the Zenz report include comments from Xinjiang and state-related academics highlighting the need to increase the share of Han residents and reduce the share of Uighurs. or the high concentration of Uighurs is described as a threat to social stability.
“The problem in southern Xinjiang is mainly the unbalanced structure of the population … the share of Han’s population is too low,” Liu Yili, an academician and deputy secretary general of the Communist Party Committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a state body with an administrative power in the region, said a symposium in July 2020, published on the website of Xinjiang University.
Xinjiang must “end the dominance of the Uighur group,” said Liao Zhaoyu, dean of the Institute of Border History and Geography at Tarim University in Xinjiang, at an academic event in 2015, shortly before birth policies and the wider internment program. to be fully implemented.
Liao did not respond to a request for comment. Liu could not be reached for comment. The Foreign Ministry did not comment on their remarks or the intentions behind the policies.
INTENTION TO DESTROY?
Zenz and other experts cite the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which lists birth prevention targeted at an ethnic group as an act that can be qualified as genocide.
The US government and parliaments in countries including Britain and Canada have described China’s policies to prevent childbirth and mass detention in Xinjiang as genocide.
However, some scholars and politicians say there is insufficient evidence of Beijing’s intention to exterminate ethnic populations in part or in full to reach the threshold for determining genocide.
Such formal criminal charges against Chinese or Xinjiang officials have not been filed due to a lack of available evidence and insight into policies in the region. Prosecution would also be complex and would require a large body of evidence.
Furthermore, China is not a party to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the highest international tribunal that prosecutes genocide and other serious crimes and that can only sue countries under its jurisdiction.
(This story corrects a typographical error in the title)
Our standards: Thomson Reuters’ principles of trust.