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Forced sterilisation, abortions used to curb Muslims in China

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Crackdown: China has been conducting a policy of suppression against its minority Uighur Muslim population. Photo: Guang Niu/Getty Images

Crackdown: China has been conducting a policy of suppression against its minority Uighur Muslim population. Photo: Guang Niu/Getty Images

Getty Images

Crackdown: China has been conducting a policy of suppression against its minority Uighur Muslim population. Photo: Guang Niu/Getty Images

The Chinese government is taking draconian measures to slash birth rates among Uighurs and other minorities as part of a sweeping campaign to curb its Muslim population, even as it encourages some of the country's Han majority to have more children.

While individual women have spoken out before about forced birth control, the practice is far more widespread and systematic than previously known, according to 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 what some experts are calling a form of "demographic genocide".

The state regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilisation and even abortion on hundreds of thousands, the interviews and data show. Even while the use of IUDs and sterilisation 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 investigation found, with the parents of three or more ripped away from their families unless they can pay huge fines. Police raid homes, terrifying parents as they search for hidden children.

After Gulnar Omirzakh, a Chinese-born Kazakh, had her third child, the government ordered her to get an IUD inserted. Two years later, in January 2018, four officials in military camouflage came knocking at her door anyway. They gave Ms Omirzakh, the penniless wife of a detained vegetable trader, three days to pay a fine worth €2,400 or 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.

"God bequeaths children on you. To prevent people from having children is wrong," said Ms Omirzakh, who tears up even now thinking back to that day. "They want to destroy us as a people."

The result of the birth control campaign is a climate of terror around having children, as seen in interview after interview. Birth rates in the mostly Uighur regions of Hotan and Kashgar plunged by more than 60pc from 2015 to 2018, the latest year available in government statistics.

Across the Xinjiang region, birth rates continue to plummet, falling nearly 24pc last year alone - compared to just 4.2pc nationwide, statistics show.

The hundreds of millions of euro the government pours into birth control has transformed Xinjiang from one of China's fastest-growing regions to among its slowest in just a few years, according to new research obtained in advance of publication by China scholar Adrian Zenz.

"This kind of drop is unprecedented.

"There's a ruthlessness to it," said Mr Zenz, a leading expert in the policing of China's minority regions. "This is part of a wider control campaign to subjugate the Uighurs."

The Chinese Foreign Ministry referred multiple requests for comment to the Xinjiang government, which did not respond.

State-backed scholars have warned for years that large rural religious families were at the root of bombings, knifings and other attacks the Xinjiang government blamed on Islamic terrorists.

The growing Muslim population was a breeding ground for poverty and extremism, "heightening political risk", according to a 2017 paper by the head of the Institute of Sociology at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences. Another cited as a key obstacle the religious belief that "the foetus is a gift from God".

Outside experts say the birth control campaign is part of a state-orchestrated assault on the Uighurs to purge them of their faith and identity and forcibly assimilate them into the dominant Han Chinese culture.

Irish Independent