China’s policies could reduce millions of Uighur births in Xinjiang: report

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BEIJING – Chinese birth control policies could reduce 2.6 to 4.5 million births to Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in southern Xinjiang in 20 years, to one-third of the region’s projected minority population, according to a new analysis by a German researcher.

The report, shared exclusively with Reuters before publication, also includes a previously unreported cache of research produced by Chinese academics and officials on Beijing’s intent behind birth control policies in Xinjiang, where official data shows that Birth rates have already fallen by 48.7% between 2017 and 2019.

The Adrian Zenz investigation comes amid growing calls among some Western countries for an investigation into whether China’s actions in Xinjiang amount to genocide, a charge that Beijing vehemently denies.

Zenz’s research is the first peer-reviewed analysis of the long-term population impact of Beijing’s multi-year crackdown on the western region. Rights groups, researchers and some residents say the policies include recently imposed birth limits on Uighurs and other primarily Muslim ethnic minorities, the transfer of workers to other regions, and the internment of an estimated 1 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 issued any official goal to reduce the proportion of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. But based on analysis of official birth data, demographic projections, and ethnic proportions proposed by Chinese academics and officials, Zenz estimates that Beijing’s policies could increase the predominant Chinese population in southern Xinjiang to around 25% from 8, 4% current.

“This goal can only be achieved if they do what they have been doing, which is drastically suppressing (Uighur) birth rates,” Zenz said.

China has previously said that the current drop in ethnic minority birth rates 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 a broader access to family planning services.

“The so-called ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang is sheer nonsense,” China’s Foreign Ministry told Reuters in a statement. “It is a manifestation of the ulterior motives of anti-China forces in the United States and the West and the manifestation of those who suffer from Sinophobia.”

Official data showing the decline in Xinjiang birth rates between 2017 and 2019 “does not reflect the true situation” and Uyghur birth rates remain higher than those of the Han ethnic group in Xinjiang, the ministry added.

The new research compares a population projection by Xinjiang-based researchers for the government-run Chinese Academy of Sciences based on pre-crackdown data with official data on birth rates and what Beijing describes as measures of ” population optimization “for ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. introduced since 2017.

It found that the ethnic minority population in Uighur-dominated southern Xinjiang would reach between 8.6 and 10.5 million by 2040 under new birth prevention policies. That compares with the 13.14 million projected by Chinese researchers using data prior to the birth policies implemented and a current population of around 9.47 million.

Zenz, an independent investigator for the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, a bipartisan nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC, has previously been condemned by Beijing for his research that has been critical of China’s policies on the detention of Uighurs. , massive labor transfers and reduction of births in Xinjiang.

China’s Foreign Ministry accused Zenz of “misleading” people with data and, in response to questions from Reuters, said that “his lies are not worth refuting.”

Zenz’s research was accepted for publication by the Central Asian Survey, a quarterly academic journal, after a peer review on June 3.

Reuters shared the research and methodology with more than a dozen experts in population analysis, birth prevention policy and international human rights law, who said the analysis and conclusions were robust.

Some of the experts cautioned that demographic projections over a period of decades can be affected by unforeseen factors. The Xinjiang government has not publicly set official ethnic quotas or population size targets for ethnic populations in southern Xinjiang, and the quotas used in the analysis are based on figures proposed by Chinese officials and scholars.

‘END OF THE DOMAIN OF UYGHUR’

The measure to prevent births among Uighurs and other minorities stands in stark contrast to China’s broader birth policies.

Last week, Beijing announced that married couples can have three children, compared to two, the biggest policy change since the one-child policy was removed in 2016 in response to China’s rapidly aging population. The ad did not contain any reference to any specific ethnic group.

Before then, the measures officially limited the majority Han ethnic group and minority groups, including Uighurs, to two children, three in rural areas. However, historically Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities had been partially excluded from these birth limits as part of preferential policies designed to benefit minority communities.

Some residents, researchers and rights groups say the newly enforced rules now disproportionately impact Islamic minorities, who face arrest for exceeding birth rates, rather than fines as in other parts of China.

In a leaked Communist Party record in 2020, also reported by Zenz, a re-education camp in southern Xinjiang’s Karakax county listed birth rapes as grounds for internment in 149 cases out of the 484 listed on the list. . China has qualified the list as “manufacturing.”

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 one Uyghur told Reuters. health official within Xinjiang.

Two of the Uyghurs said they had direct relatives who were detained for having too many children. Reuters was unable to independently verify the arrests.

“It does not depend on the choice,” said the official, based in southern Xinjiang, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals from the local government. “All Uighurs must fulfill … it is an urgent task.”

The Xinjiang government did not respond to a request for comment on whether birth limits are enforced more strictly against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities. Xinjiang officials have previously said that all procedures are voluntary.

Still, in Xinjiang counties, where Uighurs are the majority ethnic group, birth rates fell by 50.1% in 2019, for example, compared to a 19.7% drop in ethnic-majority counties. Han, according to official data compiled by Zenz.

The Zenz report says that analyzes published by academics and state-funded officials between 2014 and 2020 show that strict implementation of the policies is driven by national security concerns and is motivated by the desire to dilute the Uighur population, increase Han migration and increase loyalty to the government. Communist party.

For example, 15 documents created by academics and state-funded officials featured in the Zenz report include comments from Xinjiang officials and state-affiliated academics referring to the need to increase the proportion of Han residents and decrease the proportion of Han residents. Uighurs or describe the high concentration of Uighurs. as a threat to social stability.

“The problem in southern Xinjiang is mainly the unbalanced population structure … the proportion of the Han population is too low,” said Liu Yilei, an academic and deputy secretary-general of the Communist Party committee of the Production and Construction Corps of Xinjiang, a government body with administrative authority in the region, said at a July 2020 symposium posted on the Xinjiang University website.

Xinjiang must “end the dominance of the Uyghur group,” Liao Zhaoyu, dean of the Xinjiang Tarim University Institute of Border Geography and History, said at an academic event in 2015, shortly before the birth and birth policies were fully implemented. the most comprehensive internment program.

Liao did not respond to a request for comment. Liu could not be reached for comment. The Foreign Ministry did not comment on his comments or on the intent behind the policies.

INTENTION TO DESTROY?

Zenz and other experts point to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which lists the prevention of births directed against an ethnic group as an act that could qualify as genocide.

The US government and parliaments in countries like Britain and Canada have described China’s policies of preventing births and mass detention in Xinjiang as genocide.

However, some academics and politicians say there is insufficient evidence of Beijing’s intention to destroy an ethnic population in part or in whole to meet the threshold for a genocide determination.

No formal criminal charges have been brought against Chinese or Xinjiang officials due to a lack of available evidence and knowledge of policies in the region.

Prosecuting judicial officials would also be complex and require a high level of proof.

Furthermore, China is not a party to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the highest international court that prosecutes genocide and other serious crimes, and which can only bring actions against states within its jurisdiction.

(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Edited by Lincoln Feast)