China encourages childbirth, except for Muslims in Xinjiang?

China released census figures Tuesday showing only 12 million newborns in the country last year, the fourth straight year of declining birth rates. While Beijing is easing and even encouraging birth control, Muslim women in Xinjiang under the age of 50 are being forced to go on birth control.

The New York Times published two articles on both the Chinese census and the forced birth control of women in Xinjiang, with the former commenting that the census data suggest that China faces a demographic crisis that could hamper the growth of the world’s second-largest economy. China faces aging-related challenges similar to those of developed countries, but at the same time has a much smaller average household income. In other words, China is getting older before it gets richer.

But in reality, “since 2016, China’s family planning has eased the limit for couples to have two children, and this census may prompt policymakers to ease it even further. Many local governments already allow families to have three or more children without paying a fine.”

So it is incomprehensible why, at precisely the same time frame, the tragedy of forced birth control for Muslim women to lower the birth rate is being played out in Xinjiang, China, in a New York Times article titled: “China Forces Muslim Women to Birth Control to Lower Birth Rate.”

The article reads, “In most parts of China, authorities are encouraging women to have more children as officials try to avoid a demographic crisis triggered by a declining birth rate. But in the far western region of Xinjiang, authorities are forcing people here to have fewer children as they tighten their grip on the Muslim minority.”

The article notes, “This is part of a vastly repressive social project, a campaign with which the CCP is determined to eliminate anything that might supposedly pose a challenge to its rule, which in the case of Xinjiang is ethnic separatism. Over the past few years, the Communist Party, led by its top leader Xi Jinping, has vociferously cracked down on Xinjiang’s Uighurs and other Central Asian minorities, putting hundreds of thousands of people in internment camps and prisons. Authorities have put the region under close surveillance, sending residents to work in factories and children to boarding schools.”

“The authorities are going further, targeting Muslim women in an attempt to engineer a demographic change that will affect generations. Birth rates in the region have already plummeted in recent years as the use of invasive birth control procedures has increased, a finding already documented by researcher Adrian Zenz in collaboration with the Associated Press. Although authorities say the procedures are voluntary, interviews with more than a dozen Uighur, Kazakh and other Muslim men and women from Xinjiang, as well as a review of official statistics, government notices and official media reports, describe the Communist Party’s forcible control over the reproductive rights of these minority communities. Authorities force local women to use intrauterine devices (IUDs), or to undergo sterilization. While they recuperated at home after surgery, the government sent officials to stay with them in their homes to observe them for signs of discontent; one woman also described how she had to endure molestation by the men who guarded her.”

“They face hefty fines and even detention camps if they overstay their births or refuse contraceptive surgery. In these camps, these women are at risk of further abuse. Some of those who have been in detention camps said they were forced to take medication to stop their menstrual cycles. One woman claimed that she was raped in one of the camps.”

“For rights activists and Western officials, the Chinese government’s crackdown in Xinjiang amounts to crimes against humanity and genocide, crimes that are largely measures taken to curb the growth of the Muslim population. in January, the Trump administration became the first to declare the crackdown a genocide, with reproductive oppression as the main cause. The Biden administration confirmed the claim in March. Beijing accuses its critics of promoting an anti-China agenda. The government says the recent decline in birth rates in the region is a result of the authorities’ longstanding and comprehensive implementation of family planning. It says sterilization and contraceptive surgery have freed women from backward ideas about fertility and religion.”

Xinjiang government spokesman Xu Guisang said at a March news conference, “Whether or not to use contraception, and in what way, is an individual’s autonomous and voluntary decision, and no organization or individual is allowed to interfere.”

“For women in Xinjiang, the government’s order is clear: they have no choice. When the government herded the Uighurs and Kazakhs into mass internment camps, it also moved to increase the implementation of birth control. According to Zheng Guon’s calculations, sterilization rates in Xinjiang jumped nearly six-fold from 2015 to 2018, reaching more than 60,000 surgeries, while the number of sterilizations nationwide was in steep decline.”

The article notes that this sterilization campaign by the Chinese government in Xinjiang contradicts widespread initiatives to encourage fertility in other parts of the country in 2015, which included the provision of tax subsidies and free IUD removal. But from 2015 to 2018, Xinjiang’s share of the total number of new IUDs in the country increased even as the number of IUDs declined nationwide.

According to Zheng Guon’s calculations, birth rates in predominantly minority counties in the Xinjiang region saw a significant decline from 2015 to 2018. Several of these counties have stopped releasing population data, but based on data from other counties, Zheng Guoyen calculates that birth rates in ethnic minority areas could fall by more than 50 percent in 2019 compared to 2018.

In Xinjiang, the penalties for disobeying the government are severe. Han Chinese women who violate fertility rules face fines, while Uighur or Kazakh women could face detention. Three women told the New York Times that they had met other detainees in detention camps who were being held for violating birth restrictions. The claims were corroborated by a 137-page government document leaked last year from Muru County in southwestern Xinjiang. The document shows that one of the most common reasons for detention is violation of family planning policies.

Those who refused to terminate illegal pregnancies or pay fines would be transferred to detention camps, according to a government notice from one county in Yili that researcher Zheng Guon discovered. Once these women disappear into the secretly operated detention camps, many of them are subjected to interrogation. For some, the ordeal is even worse.

The New York Times article quotes throughout the testimony of several actual named Xinjiang Muslim women who testified after their exodus.