Tribunal to decide on whether forced abortions and sterilisations in China constitute genocide

An independent tribunal in London has been launched to investigate whether the Chinese Government’s attempt to limit the country’s Uyghur minority population, which includes forcing unwanted abortions and surgical sterilisations on the Uyghur women, constitute genocide.

The investigation will be led by prominent human rights lawyer, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who was asked by the World Uyghur Congress to investigate “ongoing atrocities and possible genocide” against the Uighur people.

While the tribunal does not have government backing, it is the latest attempt to hold China accountable for its treatment of its minority Uyghur population.

Organisers expect to reveal new evidence and testimony against China’s control of the Uyghur population over several days’ hearings next year. A verdict is expected by the end of 2021.

Sir Geoffrey said that the process will nonetheless be one way to address the lack of action in tackling the alleged abuses by “filling the gap with reliable information”.

“There is no other way of bringing the leadership of the (Chinese) Communist Party collectively or individually to judgement,” he added.

Brutality of China’s regime exposed

In July, the brutality of China’s Government was exposed when eyewitness accounts and a damning report revealed abortions, contraceptive devices and surgical sterilisation measures are being forced upon women in Xinjiang in an apparent attempt to limit the population of Muslim Uighurs.

The report by German researcher Dr Adrian Zen, titled Sterilizations, Forced Abortions, and Mandatory Birth Control: The CCP’s Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birthrates in Xinjiang, 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.”

While evidence of forced abortions and birth control has surfaced before, news agency AP declared that the practice is far more widespread and systematic than previously known.

Their investigative report highlights the brutal treatment of women and unborn babies through the eyewitness accounts of those affected.

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. 

Full-term abortions and infanticide are common practice

This month, a doctor who escaped the regime in China revealed how she participated in at least 500-600 operations on Uighur women in the country, including forced abortion, forced sterilisation and forced removal of wombs.

Speaking to ITV News, the Uighur woman also disclosed that abortions were carried out at full-term and that infanticide – the purposeful causing of a baby’s death – are common practice in China.

She added that on at least one occasion a baby was still moving and in their “final moments of life” when it was discarded into the rubbish.

The doctor, who did not want to be named by ITV News, said she felt “sorry to see the killing of a small baby” but felt no remorse as she was made to believe it was just a job.

UK working to hold China to account

The Foreign Office told ITV News: “The series of reports from ITV, add to the growing body of evidence on the serious violation of human rights against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

“The UK government is playing a leading role in coordinating international efforts to hold China to account for these violations and continues to raise concerns with Chinese officials.

“We also call on China to immediately implement UN recommendations in Xinjiang – to allow UN observers unfettered access to the region, and to end the widespread practice of extra-judicial detention.”

Full-term abortions and infanticide are common practice in China, reveals doctor who escaped regime

A doctor who escaped the regime in China has shared how she participated in at least 500-600 operations on Uighur women in the country, including forced abortion, forced sterilisation and forced removal of wombs.

Speaking to ITV News, the Uighur woman also revealed abortions were carried out at full-term and that infanticide – the purposeful causing of a baby’s death – was common practice.

She added that on at least one occasion a baby was still moving and in their “final moments of life” when it was discarded into the rubbish.

The doctor, who did not want to be named by ITV News, said she felt “sorry to see the killing of a small baby” but felt no remorse as she was made to believe it was just a job.

However, having had time to reflect, she now feels regret and is helping other Uighur minority women who have escaped China to have babies by removing contraceptive implants that had been forced upon them.

Scared

Another woman told ITV News that her first child had been forcibly taken from her body.

As a result she hid her next pregnancy. She told ITV News: “I dressed very differently to hide the bump. I pulled in my stomach.”

Through tears, she added: “I felt so scared and sad. I couldn’t tell anyone my feelings.”

“Nowhere in the world should someone need to hide their baby to save it.”

Both women are now in Istanbul, Turkey which offers sanctuary to Uighur women who have escaped the horrors of their homeland.

Brutality of China’s regime exposed

In July, the brutality of China’s Government was exposed when a damning report revealed 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.

The report by German researcher Dr Adrian Zen, titled Sterilizations, Forced Abortions, and Mandatory Birth Control: The CCP’s Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birthrates in Xinjiang, 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.”

While evidence of forced abortions and birth control has surfaced before, news agency AP declared at the time that the practice is far more widespread and systematic than previously known.

Their investigative report highlights the brutal treatment of women and unborn babies through the eyewitness accounts of those affected.

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. 

Forced abortions

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 intrauterine 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 revealed how she was forced to have an abortion before the one-child policy was relaxed. 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.”

Heartbreaking accounts of infanticide and forced abortions in North Korea

Forced abortions and infanticide – the purposeful causing of a baby’s death – are among the human rights atrocities experienced by women who have attempted to flee North Korea, according to a United Nations Human Rights report.

100 women have shared ‘heartbreaking’ first-hand accounts of the suffering they and their babies have suffered while in North Korean detention centres.

Researchers found abortions were routinely conducted without the consent of the women detainees and often through violence.

Additionally, they were told about “the killing of new-born babies and the death of women due to lack of medical assistance”.

‘No medical attention’

In one tragic incident of infanticide, one woman’s baby was killed by officials who had forced a premature delivery. The mother reportedly died one week later because she had not received any medical assistance.

The eyewitness account states: “She was taken out of the holding centre and given an injection to make her miscarry. I saw her giving birth with my own eyes… I heard crying, but then the baby was placed face down, wrapped in plastic and taken out of the cell by a prison guard… No medical attention was given [to the mother]. She died after a week or so.”

Left to die in the cold

In another incident, one woman told researchers she may have witnessed a baby left to die in temperatures well below freezing after officials had tortured her heavily pregnant mother to induce premature labour.

She said: “The guards put bricks on her back, and forced her to walk around. She had to walk with the bricks every day for a week or so. She eventually gave birth. The baby was alive when born. I was told to wrap the baby and put it outside. The woman had to work the following day.”

The witness did not see what happened to the baby, but believes the baby may have been left to die in sub-zero conditions during North Korea’s winter.

Forced abortion

One woman disclosed how another woman was forced to have an abortion as her baby had a Chinese father.

“I suffered no violence but the other woman had become pregnant in China so the guards knew that her baby had Chinese blood. This was an issue as the local laws prevented any North Korean woman from giving birth to a mixed race baby. The doctor in the MPS centre told her to get an abortion despite the fact that she wanted to keep the baby. She was eventually forced to have an abortion and sent to a kyohwaso…,” the report said.

‘Systematic’ violations

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said: “These accounts show once again the systemic nature of human rights violations in the DPRK, and the need to keep seeking pathways to proper accountability for such crimes.

“The UN Human Rights Office will continue to gather evidence of this kind to support a process of criminal accountability, whenever and wherever possible.”

The report concludes with recommendations calling for the Government to bring the detention system into line with international norms and standards.

One recommendation states the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) should “take immediate measures to end forced abortion as well as violence intended to provoke miscarriage, including through specific legislation prohibiting such practices, and conduct prompt and impartial investigations into allegations of such acts; and ensure the prosecution of those responsible.”

‘We heard mothers screaming’

Speaking at a UN event in 2017, Ji Hyeon described how she was forced to have an abortion without medication at a local police station when she was three months pregnant.

“My first child passed away without ever seeing the world, without any time for me to apologize,” she tearfully said.

“Pregnant women were forced into harsh labour all day. At night, we heard pregnant mothers screaming and babies died without ever being able to see their mothers.”

At one detention centre, she described how inmates starved to death with their dead bodies given to the guard dogs for food.

‘Barbaric’

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said: “The barbarity being reported in North Korea is shocking. Forced abortion is not restricted to North Korea, however, and is a barbaric practice which we must work to end wherever it happens.”

Further evidence of China forcing abortions on Uighur women

Further details have emerged about the Chinese Government forcing women into unwanted abortions and surgical sterilisations in an attempt to limit the Uighur minority population.

Last month, an investigative report highlighted the brutal treatment of women and unborn babies through the eyewitness accounts of those affected.

It was released alongside damning new research by German researcher Dr Adrian Zenz, which argued the severe human rights abuses in Xinjiang met the United Nation’s criteria for genocide.

Now, a number of women have shared their heartbreaking stories with the Mail on Sunday about the abortions they have been forced into.

Sumayya: Forced to have eight abortions

Sumayya’s (a pseudonym) story is perhaps the most harrowing story of those disclosed.

Initially, she was relatively protected from strict birth control measures and forced abortions, as her husband was the only son of a senior local party official.

But, he lost power soon after the birth of Sumayya’s third child.

Sumayya has since been forced to have eight abortions.

“I would cry each time,” she said.

“Usually the nurses would take it away, saying if it was a boy or a girl. One time when the baby came out, it was obviously a boy and I could hold his little hand. I slept with him all night, crying beside him.”

After becoming pregnant again in 2016, medics said her body was so damaged by the previous forced abortions that she must spend weeks in hospital preparing for another termination.

Instead, she decided to flee. Her husband was subsequently arrested, while other relatives cut off contact, scared of all the surveillance.

Desperate to find her daughter back home, Sumayya traced her through social media with the help of a neighbour.

Aware they are being monitored, Sumayya and her 17-year-old daughter sometimes just sit there silently weeping together.

Sumayya said: “My daughter texts me to say that she is losing all hope in life. I am so worried about her I cannot sleep more than a couple of hours. I tell her to focus on her studies but she responds aggressively that she is done with hope.

“How is this fair? Why are we treated worse than animals just because we are Uighurs?”

Amina Mamtimin: ‘All I can do is hope we will one day meet again’

When Amina Mamtimin became pregnant with her fifth child four years ago, she knew she had to leave her country or risk losing her baby to a forced abortion.  

“I was very happy to be having a baby but also so scared,” she said.

“[Women] are forced to have abortions and then stopped from having more kids. It was happening to almost everyone in my neighbourhood.”

As Amina had already given birth to four children, two more than is currently permitted by China’s two-child limit, she and her family decided to flee from China.

Amina’s third and fourth child had been registered as belonging to her sister, but the family knew they couldn’t dupe Communist Party officials by doing the same with their fifth child. 

The family applied for passports, but only Amina and her youngest daughter were successful.

Amina agreed with her husband, Kurbanjan, that she must go first to save their fast-growing child in her womb.

The plan was for the rest of the family to follow.

“But they never made it,” Amina revealed.

Her husband was jailed for 15 years, disappearing into China’s sinister network of ‘re-education centres’ and prisons. She doesn’t know the whereabouts of her other three children, aged between nine and 12.

Now living in Turkey with her daughter and new son, Abdullah, she said: “All I can do is hope we will one day meet again – but for now I feel barely alive and can’t feel any happiness.”

Far from unique

Tragically, stories like Amina’s are far from unique. Amina was one of about 25 Uighur women who spoke to the Mail on Sunday in Istanbul, Turkey.

One woman revealed how, like Amina, she had fled China in a panic during her pregnancy.

Unlike Amina, she managed to escape with one of her children and her husband.

However, when he returned to China after ten days to collect their other children – he was detained.

“I’ve never heard from him again,” the woman explained.

Before the end of 2018, she was scrolling through news feeds on her phone in Istanbul when she spotted her daughter singing in a video that had been filmed in a state-run orphanage called Angel’s Garden.

Zumret Abdullah: ‘They just threw the foetus in a plastic bag like it was trash’

Zumret Abdullah estimated she must have seen about 90 forced abortions in three years whilst working as a nurse on a hospital maternity ward at Urumqi Medical University.

She disclosed how expectant mothers were made to swallow medical abortion pills or, in cases where the mother was more than five months pregnant, had to have fatal injections into the heads of their unborn child.

“I witnessed a lot of tragedies there,” the young healthcare professional said.

“The husbands were not allowed inside. They take in the women, who are always crying. Afterwards, they just threw the foetus in a plastic bag like it was trash. One mother begged to die after her seven-month-old baby was killed. It took three more days to give birth. It was a proper baby. She asked if they could bury it but the doctors would not give it to the family.

“These women suffered so much. Doctors would claim the women wanted abortions but then you would hear them chatting in the office and learn the truth.”

Unable to bear the trauma of forced abortions, Zumret eventually quit her job.

“I was having mental problems, seeing babies in my dreams. I still have nightmares,” she said.

All the victims were Uighur, despite many of China’s Han population moving to Urumqi, the regional capital.

“It never happened to a [Han] Chinese person once. This was just to control the Uighur population,” Zumret said.

Rahima Muhammad: Attempting to make a difference

Rahima Muhammad spent six years working in a clinic for women that had up to 100 abortion appointments each day.

Due to the large number of women suffering health problems from brutal birth control methods and the number of women attempting to give birth at home alone, Rahima opened an illegal healthcare clinic hidden behind a pharmacy to help women trying to save their babies.

“I could not make a difference at the hospital but after I opened the clinic, more and more ladies came so I could not treat them all,” she said.

One of Rahima’s patients was a woman about seven months pregnant who pleaded for her baby to be induced prematurely since she was being chased by Chinese authorities to have an abortion.

Eventually, Rahima agreed, but the baby’s lungs were under-developed and it had breathing problems.

“I tried to persuade her to go to the hospital but she refused, so in the end I took the baby to the hospital but it died. I have never forgotten the baby’s face. This is why I cannot accept that we were forced into this situation.”

Despite her efforts, Rahima said she still felt guilty she could not do more.

Like many other women, she fled the country for Turkey after giving birth to her fourth baby. This also meant closing the clinic which had offered hope to a number of Uighur women in Xinjiang.

Roshangul Tashmuhammad: Women routinely checked

Roshangul Tashmuhammad explained how Government officials in China routinely check women’s menstrual cycles to ensure they are not pregnant.

When police discovered Roshangul’s sister-in-law was expecting a baby for the second time, she was visited by police who said they must take her to the hospital for checks.

At the hospital, medical professionals claimed the baby had died in the womb so they forcibly aborted it.

Two years later, the same sister-in-law hid from the authorities during another pregnancy with the aim of giving birth.

However, this led to Roshangul’s brother being jailed for four years.

“They said his baby should not be alive,” Roshangul said.

Kalbinur Kamal: Forcibly sterilised

Kalbinur Kamal, a teacher among those forcibly sterilised said: “I had no option but to sign the [sterilisation authorisation] forms. The Chinese doctor said you must accept because if not we will do it by force anyway, so better to do it willingly.”

Huge bribes

Several people told the Mail on Sunday that their families had paid huge bribes to protect their babies, while others hid in homes or moved constantly to evade the authorities.

One doctor told me she paid about a year’s salary to register her third child. During a decade working as a paediatrician in Urumqi, she often faked papers saying infants could not hear or speak since this allowed families to have another child.

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 ended in 2015, it was 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 the government comes 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.”