Suppressed, Sterilised and Silenced: Uighur Muslim Women in China

(Photo: The Spectator)

By Holly Mottram – Regular Contributor

*Warning – This article contains descriptions of instances that some readers may find disturbing*

Whilst Uighur Muslim women are raped, sterilised, forced to have abortions, fitted with IUDs, filmed and humiliated, the world looks away.

This has been the story for far too long. Many know of the internment or re-education camps in Xinjiang, a story that has made news headlines around the world, and has prompted protests at the lack of government action. However, few know about other, more invasive techniques used by the Chinese government to suppress Uighur Muslims, and prevent their growth.

What is happening in Xinjiang?

Through various reports, policies, insider access and witness testimonies, there are several near indisputable offences occurring within Xinjiang, China. The overall aim of this is to reduce birth rates of minority races within the country, in particular Uighur Muslims. The majority of Uighur women have not been sent to internment camps, but instead are forced to endure severe repression in their ordinary lives, around their homes and villages.

The first prong of attack from the Chinese government is to deter Uighur women from having Uighur children. With many of the communities’ men in camps, some women find another husband, and some are coerced into marriages with Han Chinese men in order to dilute the number of Uighur children. The government has threatened women who have more than two Uighur Muslim children with forced sterilisation, or being sent to internment camps. Some reports show that women are forced to take a pregnancy test every 2 months within a Chinese clinic, and if they are pregnant, are forced to have abortions. This method is advertised as a free health check-up every month for Uighur women; however, many are heavily coerced to attend with reports, at times, of an armed escort.

A second, and more invasive method of reducing birth rates is fitting Uighur women with IUDs, a method of contraception that can last between 5 and 10 years. In 2018, 80% of all IUDs fitted in China were in Xinjiang, a county which only houses 1.8% of the population. This is a dramatic increase from only 2.5% fitted in China in 2014, clearly demonstrating the intense crackdown on birth rates amongst Uighur Muslims. Dr Adrian Zenz, an expert in this subject, and a man who has revealed large amounts of information about China’s repression policy, reported that in 2019 Xinjiang’s target for IUD implants was 80% of Uighur women of a childbearing age. This included up to 50% of women with just one child in certain villages. The IUDs are state designed and fitted, and can only be removed by state approved practices. Removal by any other means would result in prison terms and fines.

The third invasive policy is mass sterilisation. In 2019 when hundreds of thousands of Uighur men were sent to internment camps, the campaign for mass sterilisation began. These procedures are conducted in a manner that is irreversible, through the severing of the fallopian tubes. In 2018, Xinjiang sterilised 1.1% of all married Uighur women of a childbearing age. In 2019, Hotan City, just a small region within Xinjiang, was scheduled to sterilise 34.3% of such women. The dramatic increase of sterilisations in mere months has led to allegations of a breach of UN law through the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This informs us that “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the [targeted] group” does constitute mass physical genocide through this criterion.

What has been the outcome of this forcible repression of birth rates among the Uighur population? Put concisely, it has done exactly what the Chinese government had set out to do; slowly eradicate the existence of Uighur Muslims in China. In many districts within Xinjiang, death rates are higher than birth rates and population growth has reduced dramatically. One Uighur region set an unprecedented growth rate of nearly zero, at 1.05 per thousand, others experiencing similar lows of 11.45 per thousand in 2018. China is slowly, but surely, letting the Uigher minority in Xinjiang die out, and the world has said next to nothing.

How do we know about these atrocities?

Dr Adrian Zenz is one of the leading experts on this subject, and has presented a large amount of evidence to support witness statements and government reports confirming this mass religious suppression. The Chinese government continues to deny the state-funded repression of Uighur Muslims. This is despite sterilisation targets, IUD implant figures and threats of internment to women who refuse, being published to the public in local government reports. Dr Zenz has published many papers in the previous 4 years with data driven evidence of these atrocities.

It is not only numerical data that has revealed to the world what is happening in Xinjiang, but also first-hand accounts from men and women who have lived there. On a case-by-case basis, these specific claims cannot be supported by certain data, but many women tell of atrocities far worse than anything reported by Dr Zenz and the international media. There are reports of women in internment camps being filmed in the shower, selected by the prison guards to be gang raped and humiliated. Others have reported being force fed pills which disrupted or stopped their menstrual bleeding. Some young girls have told reporters that contraceptive pills were baked into their bread so they could not taste them. The list of horrendous reports originating from Xinjiang are certainly cause for international outrage, protests and action, and yet the news coverage is minimal, and international response has been even less.

Why aren’t countries criticising China?

As we can see, the scale of human rights violations in Xinjiang is very large indeed, and the potential to call the mass sterilisation of Uighurs an act of physical genocide under the aforementioned UN convention is realistic and plausible. However, though there has been passing criticism of these acts from foreign powers, no quantifiable action has been taken, and it seems this is unlikely to change. Why then, do countries seem reluctant to call China out on their treatment of Uighur Muslims?

The primary reason for this is simply economic reliance on China. Many Middle Eastern and Asian countries in particular have a vested interest in maintaining a good relationship with China. As a part of the Chinese Belt Road Initiative, China invested in almost 70 countries, in some giving hefty loans and in others funding development projects. This initiative has been accused of being a debt trap, and for some countries is certainly preventing them from calling out China’s human rights violations.

In late 2019, 23 countries campaigned with the UN to urge China to stop these acts of religious suppression, however China’s UN ambassador called the accusations “baseless” and threatened that this may affect US-China trade negotiations. Because of China’s international standing as an economic superpower, foreign powers are pressured to stay silent about these issues, something that is in dire need of a change.

Bibliography:

To read Dr Adrian Zenz’s latest paper on this subject, follow this link: https://jamestown.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Zenz-Sterilizations-IUDs-and-Mandatory-Birth-Control-FINAL-27June.pdf?x71937

June 2020. Sterilizations, IUDs, and Mandatory Birth Control: The CCP’s Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birthrates in Xinjiang. Dr Adrian Zenz.

October 30, 2019. UK joins 22 other UN nations in condemning China’s detention of Uighur Muslims.The Independent.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/uighur-muslim-china-xinjiang-united-nations-human-rights-uk-religious-freedom-a9177191.html

July 1, 2020. China’s Own Documents Show Potentially Genocidal Sterilization Plans in Xinjiang. Foreign Policy.

January 12, 1951. United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. United Nations.

June 29, 2020. China Sterilizing Ethnic Minority Women in Xinjiang, Reports Claim. The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/29/china-sterilising-ethnic-minority-women-in-xinjiang-report-says

August 27, 2018. Why the Muslim world isn’t saying anything about China’s repression. Business Insider.

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