Abortions, contraceptive devices and surgical sterilisations measures are being forced upon women in Xinjiang in an apparent attempt to limit the population of Muslim Uighurs, according to new research.
While evidence of forced abortions and birth control has surfaced before, news agency AP has declared the practice is far more widespread and systematic than previously known.
The news agency argues the regime in China is attempting to slash the ethnic minority Uighur population in Xinjiang.
The investigative report highlights the brutal treatment of women and unborn babies through the eyewitness accounts of those affected. It has been released alongside damning new research by German researcher Dr Adrian Zenz.
In his report, Sterilizations, Forced Abortions, and Mandatory Birth Control: The CCP’s Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birthrates in Xinjiang, Dr Zenz details the severe human rights abuses in Xinjiang and argues that these abuses meet the United Nation’s criteria for genocide.
Warning that the situation in Xinjiang has become “especially severe” in recent years, the report states: “Government documents bluntly mandate that birth control violations are punishable by extrajudicial internment in ‘training’ camps.”
Last year, Adrian Zenz estimated there were up to 1.5 million Uighur people and other minorities being detained in so-called political and religious “re-education” camps, sometimes referred to as “training” camps.
One former detainee, Tursunay Ziyawudun, told news agency AP that she was injected until she stopped having her period, and kicked repeatedly in the lower stomach during interrogations.
As a result, she now can’t have children and often doubles over in pain, bleeding from her womb.
Ziyawudun is among a number of women who have reported forced abortions to AP. She shared how a woman in another class turned out to be pregnant and disappeared from the camp.
Ziyawudun added that two of her cousins, who were pregnant at the time, “got rid of their children on their own because they were so afraid”.
She also revealed that a “teacher” at her camp told women they would face abortions if they were found to be pregnant during gynaecology exams.
Another woman, Gulbakhar Jalilova, confirmed that detainees in her camp were forced to abort their babies.
She also saw a new mum, still leaking breast milk, who did not know what had happened to her infant.
Jalilova said she had met doctors and medical students who were detained for helping Uighurs dodge the system and give birth at home.
Having too many children is also seen as a major reason people are sent to “re-education” camps, with parents of three or more children forcibly taken away from their families unless they can pay huge fines.
Police will often raid the homes of terrified parents searching for hidden children.
After Gulnar Omirzakh, a Chinese-born Kazakh, had her third child, authorities ordered her to get an intra-uterine device (IUD) – a long lasting method of birth control – fitted.
Despite her seemingly complying with the order, two years later, in January 2018, 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 $2,685 fine for having more than two children.
She was warned if she couldn’t pay she would join her husband in a “re-education” camp.
A teary Omirzakh said: “They want to destroy us as a people.”
‘Huge psychological pressure’
A former teacher drafted to work as an instructor at a detention camp described her experience with IUDs to the AP.
She said Uighur residents had to chant: “If we have too many children, we’re religious extremists.”
As one of the officials in the teacher’s compound, she was told she needed to have an IUD fitted. But, she protested saying she was nearly 50 with just one child and no plans to have more.
Her protests were in vain though and she was forced into a bus with four armed officers and taken to a hospital where hundreds of Uighur women lined up in silence, waiting for IUDs to be inserted. Some wept quietly, but nobody dared say a word because of the surveillance cameras hanging overhead.
The former teacher said her IUD was designed to be irremovable and caused her headaches and non stop menstrual bleeding, during the first 15 days.
“I couldn’t eat properly, I couldn’t sleep properly. It gave me huge psychological pressure,” she added. “Only Uighurs had to wear it.”
The result of China’s extreme population control campaign and forced abortions is a climate of terror around having children, which AP said could be seen in interview after interview. The news agency collected the testimonies of thirty women in the midst of this brutality.
Chinese health statistics also show a sterilization boom in Xinjiang.
Birth rates in the mostly Uighur regions of Hotan and Kashgar plunged by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018 – the latest year available in government statistics.
Across the Xinjiang region, birth rates fell by 24% last year alone compared to just 4.2% nationwide.
‘Slow, painful, creeping genocide’
Dr Zenz said: “This kind of drop is unprecedented….there’s a ruthlessness to it. This is part of a wider control campaign to subjugate the Uighurs.”
He added that the findings “provide the strongest evidence yet that Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang meet one of the UN’s genocide criteria”.
Joanne Smith Finley, an expert on Uighurs at Newcastle University, agrees and said: “It’s genocide, full stop.”
She added: “It’s not immediate, shocking, mass-killing on the spot type genocide, but it’s slow, painful, creeping genocide.
“These are direct means of genetically reducing the Uighur population.”
The report has received a large amount of media attention and has prompted international calls for the United Nations to investigate.
In a statement on Monday, the Interparliamentary Alliance on China, an international cross-party group of politicians including Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, and US senator Marco Rubio, called on the UN to “establish an international, impartial, independent investigation into the situation in the Xinjiang region”.
“A body of mounting evidence now exists, alleging mass incarceration, indoctrination, extrajudicial detention, invasive surveillance, forced labor, and the destruction of Uyghur cultural sites, including cemeteries, together with other forms of abuse,” the statement said.
“The world cannot remain silent in the face of unfolding atrocities. Our countries are bound by solemn obligations to prevent and punish any effort to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group ‘in whole or in part’.”
According to the BBC, China’s foreign ministry responded to the report on Monday by saying the allegations were “baseless” and showed “ulterior motives”.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused media outlets of “cooking up false information on Xinjiang-related issues”.
Painful legacy of one and two-child policies
Earlier this year, a Chinese mother who was given a forced abortion after falling pregnant with her third child was granted refugee status in New Zealand.
The family’s story offers a glimpse into how China’s former one-child policy and current two-child policy continue to leave a painful legacy
Although China’s brutal one-child policy was ended in 2015, it has now been replaced by a similarly draconian two-child policy and the devastating consequences of forced abortions, sterilizations, abandoned newborns, and Government abductions are still ongoing.
Chinese-born filmmakers Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang exposed some of the consequences of the policy by retelling some of the stories of those who lived through it.
In their One Child Nation documentary, which can be viewed on Amazon Prime Video, an 84-year-old midwife revealed she was unsure how many babies she had delivered, but had performed a total of between 50,000 to 60,000 sterilizations and abortions.
“I counted this out of guilt, because I aborted and killed babies,” the midwife, Huaru Yuan, continues. “Many I induced alive and killed. My hands trembled doing it.”
One mother in China told the BBC that she would have liked a second child but was also forced to have an abortion.
She said: “You either go willingly or they come for you.”
Another mother told the BBC, that before the one-child policy was relaxed, she was forced to have an abortion. Speaking of the ordeal she said: “My baby didn’t die immediately… it kept on struggling inside me.
“It broke my heart, the next day it was born still alive… it cried. The doctor said don’t look at it, you’ll have nightmares.”