BEIJING: Chinese authorities are carrying out forced sterilizations of women in an apparent campaign to curb the growth of ethnic minority populations in the western Xinjiang region, according to research published Monday.
The report, based on a combination of official regional data, policy documents and interviews with ethnic minority women, has prompted an international group of lawmakers to call for a United Nations investigation into China’s policies in the region.
The move is likely to enrage Beijing, which has denied trampling on the rights of ethnic groups in Xinjiang, and which on Monday called the allegations “baseless.”
The country is accused of locking more than one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in re-education camps. Beijing describes the facilities as job training centers aimed at steering people away from terrorism following a spate of violence blamed on separatists.
Now a report by Adrian Zenz, a German researcher who has exposed China’s policies in Xinjiang, says Uighur women other ethnic minorities are being threatened with internment in the camps for refusing to abort pregnancies that exceed birth quotas.
Zenz’s data-driven work — which uses public documents found by scouring China’s Internet — on the camps has previously been cited by experts on a UN panel investigating the facilities.
Women who had fewer than the legally permitted limit of two children were involuntarily fitted with IUDs, says the report.
It also reports that some of the women said they were being coerced into receiving sterilization surgeries.
Former camp detainees said they were given injections that stopped their periods, or caused unusual bleeding consistent with the effects of birth control drugs.
Government documents studied by Zenz also showed that women in some rural minority communities in the region received frequent mandatory gynaecological exams and bi-monthly pregnancy tests from local health officials.
Zenz found that population growth in Xinjiang counties predominantly home to ethnic minorities fell below the average growth in primarily Han majority counties between 2017 and 2018, a year after the officially recorded rate of sterilizations in the region sharply overtook the national rate in 2016.
Uighur activists say China is using the internment camps to conduct a massive brainwashing campaign aimed at eradicating their distinct culture and Islamic identity.
China appears to be using coercive birth control in Xinjiang as part of a “wider game plan of ethno-racial domination,” Zenz wrote in the report.
“These findings raise serious concerns as to whether Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang represent, in fundamental respects, what might be characterized as a demographic campaign of genocide” under UN definitions, Zenz said in the report.
The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), a group of North American, European and Australian members of parliament from a range of political parties, said in a statement Monday it would push for a legal investigation on “whether or not crimes against humanity or genocide have taken place” in Xinjiang.
IPAC was formed in June with a stated mission of standing up against “challenges posed by the present conduct and future ambitions of the People’s Republic of China.”
Britain said it was aware of reports which “add to our concern about the human rights sitution in Xinjiang.”
“Of course we will be considering this report very carefully,” junior foreign office minister Nigel Adams told parliament.
China’s foreign ministry said the allegations were “baseless” and showed “ulterior motives.”
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian blasted media outlets for “cooking up false information on Xinjiang-related issues,” saying at a regular press briefing that Xinjiang is “harmonious and stable.”
The rights group World Uyghur Congress said the report showed a “genocidal element of the CCP’s (Chinese Communist Party) policies” and called in a statement for international action to confront China.