A German anthropologist has compelling new evidence that the Chinese government is forcibly suppressing births among Uyghurs in Xinjiang region.
Adrian Zenz was among the first scholars to document the persecution of racial minorities in Xinjiang. His latest study, first reported by Reuters, uses official data to show that birth rates in the region declined by almost half between 2017 and 2019.
Mr. Zenz attributes that decline to policies of enforced sterilization and other coercive tactics aimed at drastically reducing the number of Uyghur births each year, which he calls “a slow genocide.”
“The Uyghurs are seen as a threat,” Mr. Zenz told me. But “it’s not about mass eliminating them. It’s about bringing them under control.”
The Uyghur total fertility rate should be declining, just as fertility is declining around the world. When people migrate from rural to urban areas, children become more of an economic liability, women become better educated and more autonomous, and the powers of clan ties and religion erode. This happened in the developed world over several generations and is happening in the developing world far more quickly.
But something very different is under way in the southern prefectures of Xinjiang, where Uyghurs dominate. According to a study for the Chinese Academy of Sciences, birth have declined so drastically that the population of ethnic minorities in southern Xinjiang is now expected to reach between 8.6 million and 10.5 million by 2040, compared with previous estimates of 13.1 million. The current population in the region is about 9.5 million.
Three million or more Uyghurs, along with other ethnic minorities, are about to go missing by not being born.
Mr. Zenz reproduces data from numerous official Chinese sources that reveal how the situation is viewed by the Chinese government. He quotes Liao Zhaoyu, dean of the Institute of Frontier History and Geography at Xinjiang’s Tarim University, who has said that, in order to combat terrorist activities, southern Xinjiang must “change the population structure and layout [to] end the dominance of the Uyghur ethnic group.”
Collapsing Uyghur birth rates, according to data mined by Mr. Zenz, could increase the Han proportion of the population in southern Xinjiang from 8 per cent to 25 per cent.
The ultimate objective is “to make the Uyghur population easier to control by reducing its size,” he told the Uyghur Tribunal. The tribunal, an independent body, heard testimony this week as part of its mandate to determine whether and what offences have been committed by the Chinese government against the Uyghur people. The government in Beijing has denounced the tribunal as “just another anti-Chinese farce.”
Although the Chinese government is encouraging Han Chinese to move into Xinjiang, that won’t succeed in reducing Uyghur dominance, because the region doesn’t have the resources needed to sustain a much larger population. Instead, outmigration by Han Chinese threatens to tilt the balance even more in the favour of Uyghurs.
The Chinese government’s solution, according to people interviewed by Reuters, includes reducing the Uyghur population through mass internment, forced migration of workers and coercive birth control methods that include separation of married couples, involuntary sterilization, forced implanting of intrauterine devices (IUDs) and abortions.
According to data gathered by Mr. Zenz, in Xinjiang counties where Uyghurs are the dominant ethnic group, the birth rate in 2019 decreased by 50 per cent, compared with 20 per cent in counties with Han majorities. In the case of the Han, outmigration could be a factor in fewer births.
Despite raising the maximum number of children permitted from one to three over the past several years, the overall Chinese fertility rate is very low, having reached 1.3 births per woman, according to the latest census, far below the replacement rate of 2.1. The Uyghur fertility rate was thought to be considerably higher before the crackdown.
The Canadian House of Commons has passed non-binding motion declaring that the Chinese government’s persecution of its Uyghur population amounts to genocide, although here may be little that anyone can do, beyond protests and sanctions. China is the world’s most populous country, with the world’s second largest economy. And it is a nuclear power.
But the evidence of its abusive treatment of ethnic minorities is beyond dispute. The government in Beijing has lost all moral authority. It has become a rogue state. A large and powerful rogue state, but a rogue state nonetheless.
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