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According to a new analysis by the German researcher, China’s birth control policies could cut 2.6 to 4.5 million births among predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in southern Xinjiang over 20 years, accounting for up to a third of the region’s projected minority.
The report, provided exclusively to the Reuters news agency prior to publication, also includes previously unreported studies by Chinese academics and officials on Beijing’s intentions behind Xinjiang’s birth control policies, where official figures show the birth rate has dropped 48.7 percent. in the period from 2017. and 2019.
The study by Adrian Zenz comes amid growing calls from some Western countries to investigate whether China’s actions in Xinjiang constitute genocide, a charge Beijing vehemently denies.
The Zenz study is the first such peer-reviewed analysis of the long-term impact on the population of Beijing’s years of repression in the western region. Rights groups, researchers and some residents say the policies include recently imposed birth control restrictions on Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities, transferring workers to other regions, and interning roughly one million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in a network of camps.
“This (research and analysis) really shows the intentions behind the long-term plan of the Chinese government for the Uyghur population,” Zenz told Reuters, which released a report on the matter on Monday.
The Chinese government has not announced any official targets to reduce the proportion of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. But based on an analysis of official birth data, demographic projections and ethnic ratios suggested by Chinese academics and officials, Zentz believes Beijing’s policies could increase the predominant Han Chinese population in southern Xinjiang to about 25 percent from 8.4 percent currently.
“This goal is only achievable if they do what they did before, which dramatically lowers the (Uyghur) birth rate,” Zenz said.
China has previously stated that the current drop in fertility among ethnic minorities is due to the full implementation of existing fertility quotas in the region, as well as to development factors, including increased per capita income and increased access to family planning services.
“The so-called ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang is complete nonsense,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “This is a manifestation of the ulterior motives of anti-Chinese forces in the United States and the West, and a manifestation of those who suffer from synophobia.”
Official figures showing declining birth rates in Xinjiang between 2017 and 2019 “do not reflect the true situation,” and the Uyghur fertility rate remains higher than that of ethnic Han Chinese in Xinjiang, the ministry added.
The new study compares the population projections made by researchers in Xinjiang for the state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences, based on data prior to the persecution, with official fertility data and what Beijing describes as “population optimization” measures for Xinjiang’s ethnic minorities introduced since then. … 2017 Nov.
It has been found that the population of ethnic minorities in southern Xinjiang, which is dominated by Uyghurs, will reach between 8.6 and 10.5 million by 2040 under a new policy of preventing births. By comparison, Chinese researchers predict 13.14 million people using data prior to the implementation of the fertility policy, and the current population is about 9.47 million.
Zenz, an independent researcher at the Memorial Fund for the Victims of Communism, a bipartisan non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., was previously convicted by Beijing for his research criticizing China’s policies of detention of Uyghurs, massive labor transfers and childbearing. downsizing in Xinjiang.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry accused Zenza of “misleading” people with data and, in response to questions from Reuters, said, “His lies do not deserve refutation.”
Zenz’s study was accepted for publication by the Central Asian Survey quarterly after peer review on June 3.
Reuters shared the study’s findings and methodology with over a dozen experts in population analysis, birth prevention policy and international human rights law who said the analysis and conclusions were correct.
Some experts have warned that unforeseen factors could affect demographic projections for decades. The Xinjiang government has not publicly set an official ethnic quota or population targets for ethnic groups in southern Xinjiang, and the quotas used in the analysis are based on estimated figures from Chinese officials and scholars.
‘End Uyghur domination’
Action to prevent childbearing among Uyghurs and other minorities stands in stark contrast to China’s broader fertility policies.
Beijing announced last week that married couples could have three children instead of two, the largest such policy shift since the one-child policy was lifted in 2016 due to China’s rapidly aging population. The ad did not mention any specific ethnic groups.
Prior to this, measures formally restricted most Han Chinese and minority groups, including Uyghurs, to two children – three in rural areas. Historically, however, Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have been partially excluded from these fertility restrictions through preferential policies designed to benefit minority communities.
Some residents, researchers and advocacy groups say the newly introduced rules currently disproportionately affect Islamic minorities, who face detention for exceeding the birth rate, rather than fines like elsewhere in China.
In a communist party protocol leaked in 2020, also reported by Zenz, a re-education camp in southern Xinjiang Karakash county listed abnormalities at birth as the reason for internment in 149 of the 484 cases on the list. China called this list “fiction”.
Birth quotas for ethnic minorities have been strictly enforced in Xinjiang since 2017, including despite the separation of married couples and the use of sterilization procedures, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and abortion, three Uyghurs and one health worker in Xinjiang told Reuters.
Two of the Uyghurs said they have close relatives detained for having too many children. Reuters was unable to independently verify the arrests.
“It’s not a matter of choice,” said an official from southern Xinjiang, who asked not to be named because he feared reprisals from the local government. “All Uyghurs must obey … this is an urgent task.”
The Xinjiang government did not respond to requests for comment on whether it is enforcing more stringent fertility restrictions on Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. Xinjiang officials have previously stated that all procedures are voluntary.
However, in Xinjiang counties, where Uyghurs make up the majority of the ethnic group, the birth rate fell, for example, by 50.1 percent in 2019, compared with a drop of 19.7 percent in counties with the majority of ethnic Han people, according to official figures compiled Zenz.
Zenz’s report says analyzes published by state-funded academics and officials between 2014 and 2020 show that strict policy implementation is driven by national security concerns and motivated by a desire to dilute the Uyghur population, increase Han migration, and increase loyalty to the ruling decision. Communist Party.
For example, 15 documents created by government-funded academics and officials included in the Zenz report include comments from Xinjiang officials and state-affiliated scholars calling for an increase in Han residents and a decrease in Uyghurs, or describing a high concentration of Uyghurs as a social threat. stability.
“The problem in southern Xinjiang is mainly due to the imbalanced structure of the population … the proportion of the Han population is too small,” said Liu Ilei, scholar and deputy general secretary of the Communist Party Committee of the Xinjiang Construction Corps, government. the authority wielding administrative power in the region reported a symposium in July 2020, published on the Xinjiang University website.
Xinjiang must “end the domination of the Uyghur group,” said Liao Zhaoyu, dean of the Institute for the History and Geography of Border Areas at Tarim University in Xinjiang, at an academic event in 2015, shortly before the fertility policy and wider internment program were put in place. in full. …
Liao did not respond to a request for comment. Liu could not be reached for comment. The Foreign Ministry did not comment on either their remarks or policy goals.
The intent to destroy?
Zenz and other experts point to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which treats the prevention of childbearing imposed on an ethnic group as one act that qualifies as genocide.
The United States government and parliaments in countries including the United Kingdom and Canada have characterized China’s policy of preventing births and mass detentions in Xinjiang as genocide.
However, some scholars and politicians say that there is not enough evidence of Beijing’s intentions, in whole or in part, to wipe out its ethnic population to reach the threshold for defining genocide.
Officials in China or Xinjiang have not faced any formal criminal charges due to the lack of available evidence and understanding of the region’s policies. Prosecution of officials will also be difficult and will require high evidence.
In addition, 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 lawsuits against states under its jurisdiction.
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