The Chinese government is taking stringent measures to put down the birth rates among Uighurs and other minorities as part of its sweeping campaign to curb the Muslim population. Though it does encourage some of the country’s Han majority to have more children.
Several women have spoken out against forced birth control but the practice seems far more widespread and systematic. AP initiated an investigation based on government statistics, state documents and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members and a former detention camp instructor. The campaign over the past four years in the far west region of Xinjiang is leading to a form of “demographic genocide”, say experts.
Minority women are regular subjected to inspections and pregnancy checks. They are also forced to take intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion. Even while the use of IUDs and sterilization has fallen nationwide, it is rising sharply in Xinjiang.
The population control measures are backed by mass detention both as a threat and as a punishment for failure to comply.
Having too many children is a major reason people are sent to detention camps, the AP found, with the parents of three or more ripped away from their families unless they can pay huge fines.
Gulnar Omirzakh, a Chinese-born Kazakh, was ordered by the government to get an IUD inserted after she had her third child. On January 2018, two years later, four officials in military camouflage came knocking at her door anyway. They gave Omirzakh, the penniless wife of a detained vegetable trader, three days to pay a $2900 fine for having more than two children.
If she didn’t, they warned, she would join her husband and a million other ethnic minorities locked up in internment camps – often for having too many children.
Han Chinese are largely spared the abortions, sterilizations, IUD insertions and detentions for having too many children that are forced on Xinjiang’s other ethnicity, interviews and data show. Some rural Muslims, like Omirzakh, were punished even for having the three children allowed by the law.
Once in the detention camps, women are subjected to forced IUDs and what appear to be pregnancy prevention shots
The birth control campaign is fueled by government worries that high birth rates among Muslims leads to poverty and extremism in Xinjiang. This is an arid, landlocked region that has struggled in recent years with knifing and bombing blamed on Islamic terrorists.