New Delhi: With forced birth control measures and ‘re-education camps’, China has been deliberately reducing the population of Uyghurs, a Muslim minority ethnic group, a new study has claimed.
The study by Dr Adrian Zenz, a German anthropologist known for his research on Muslim minorities in China, estimates that the country’s policies could lead to a loss of over 4.5 million lives by 2040 and suggests that this could be classified as genocide under the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.
The UN Genocide Convention, ratified by 152 countries, is an instrument of international law that has codified the crime of genocide, noting that it can happen both in times of war or peace.
Published in the Central Asian Survey journal Wednesday, the study by Zenz shares evidence of an organised campaign to reduce population growth of Muslim Uyghurs by forcibly using birth control as well as other measures.
Zenz, a Senior Fellow in China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in the US, analysed publicly available documents in Xinjiang — an autonomous territory in northwest China — along with articles written by academics in the region for the study.
He noted that the documents shed light on a common narrative, which is the wish to “optimise” the ethnic population structure in Xinjiang.
This instruction, according to Zenz, comes right from the top with the central government in Beijing “attaching great importance to the problem of Xinjiang’s population structure and population security”.
The study also reveals the presence of a state-run scheme to forcibly uproot, assimilate and reduce the population density of Uyghurs.
Measures ranging from mass internment of Uyghurs for political re-education to systematic birth prevention, mass sterilisation and forced displacement have been introduced by the Chinese government since 2017, according to the study.
As a result, natural population growth in Xinjiang has declined dramatically in recent years.
Zenz estimates that birth prevention could result in a potential loss of between 2.6 and 4.5 million lives by the year 2040.
“My study reveals the presence of a long-term strategy by Beijing to solve the Xinjiang ‘problem’ through ‘optimization’ of the ethnic population structure,” Zenz said in a statement.
“The most realistic method to achieve this involves a drastic suppression of ethnic minority birth rates for the coming decades, resulting in a potential loss of several million lives. A smaller ethnic minority population will also be easier to police, control and assimilate,” he added.
“The most concerning aspect of this strategy is that ethnic minority citizens are framed as a ‘problem’. This language is akin to purported statements by Xinjiang officials that problem populations are like ‘weeds hidden among the crops’ where the state will ‘need to spray chemicals to kill them all’. Such a framing of an entire ethnic group is highly concerning,” noted Zenz.
Also read: Did China hide birth control measures enforced in Xinjiang? Australia study thinks so
Policies against Uyghurs
More than 10 million Uyghurs, predominantly Muslims, live in the Xinjiang province. They speak a Turkic language and more closely resemble the people of Central Asia than they do China’s majority population, the Han Chinese.
In 2018, a research by Zenz uncovered evidence that up to one million Uyghur people were detained in what the Chinese government defines as ‘re-education’ camps.
While China had initially denied the existence of such camps, it later defended the camps noting that they were a measure against terrorism.
Zenz, however, presented a series of leaked official documents, which showed that many of those detained were accused only of harbouring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas.
In another study, published in 2020, Zenz highlighted that unknown drugs and injections were being administered to Uyghur women in detention.
The study revealed that authorities were forcibly implanting intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUDs) in women, which are medical implants that prevent conception, or are forcing women to undergo surgical sterilisation.
He added that detention was being used as a punishment for birth control violations.
(Edited by Rachel John)
Also read: ‘Ideological cure’ for Uyghurs, ‘no mercy’ — what leaked papers reveal about Xinjiang camps