By VICTOR ORDONEZ, ABC News
(BEIJING) — In a new state media report, the Chinese government is defending its policies against Muslim women in the country’s westernmost province, where it’s been accused of forced mass sterilization — a horrific crime it strongly denies.
In a tweet Thursday, the Chinese Embassy in the U.S. shared the report, saying that Muslim women in Xinjiang province are “no longer baby-making machines” and that the decrease in population growth throughout the province led to a drop in terrorism.
The tweet garnered instead blowback and calls for Twitter to remove it, given the Chinese government’s oppressive campaign against Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities.
“Decreases in the birthrate and natural population growth rate in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in 2018 resulted from the eradication of religious extremism,” according to the article published by China Daily, the largest Chinese Communist Party-owned English language newspaper with circulation worldwide.
The study and press releases from the Chinese government attributed the decrease in population growth to family planning programs and increased education, which religious extremism “incited people to resist,” according to another press release from the embassy.
However, experts continue to believe Uighur women in Xinjiang are being sterilized.
“They keep trying to get out of the accusations of genocide,” said Adrian Zenz, senior fellow in China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Zenz’s research back in June provided substantial evidence for a “forced mass sterilization” campaign taking place in Xinjiang.
China’s treatment of Uighurs has come under increased scrutiny in the last couple years, as the Chinese government ramped up its so-called “re-education” campaign that uses mass detention camps.
Those camps are used as a form of threat and punishment, with officials detaining women and families who fail to comply with pregnancy checks or forced intrauterine contraceptive devices — more commonly known as IUDs — sterilizations, and even abortions, according to Zenz’s research.
“We first thought that internment and strict enforcement of family planning was greatly depressing population growth rates in Uighur regions,” Zenz told ABC News back in June. “But then the shocker came when I dug deep and found plans to reduce natural birth or natural population growth to near zero by 2020.”
Now, the Chinese government seems to be agreeing with Zenz’s conclusion.
“The birthrate in Xinjiang decreased from 1.6 percent in 2017 to 1 percent in 2018 and the natural population growth rate fell from 1.1 percent to 0.6 percent,” according to the study.
As China’s Muslim population in Xinjiang plummets, the government continues to relocate its Han Chinese, the country’s main ethnic group, into the mineral-rich region. The article tweeted by the Chinese Embassy in the U.S. compares the population growth in the region to that of the Han majority — claiming for years growth disproportionately favored the Uighurs.
“The [Uighur] population grew from 10.2 million in 2010 to 12.7 million in 2018, an increase of more than 25 percent,” the authors wrote. “While the population of Han people in the region increased by just 2 percent to 9 million over the same period.”
China strongly denies any claims of forced sterilization.
Both the country’s government and the China Daily article call out Adrian Zenz and his research directly, stating that any decrease in population is largely the result of the country’s crackdown on terrorism.
“In the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uygur women were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no long baby-making machines, women have since been striving to become healthy, confident and independent,” according to the government’s new study.
“In cranking out counter propaganda to my work, they keep digging a deeper hole,” Zenz said Thursday.
News reports last month indicated that the U.S. State Department was considering classifying China’s acts in Xinjiang as genocide. The State Department would not confirm these reports, but a spokesperson said the department “is deeply concerned about the People’s Republic of China’s appalling campaign of repression in Xinjiang against Uyghurs and members of other predominantly Muslim minority groups.”
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.