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China is targeting Muslim women’s birthrates, New York Times reports

Mary Margaret Olohan, DCNF

  • Chinese government officials are targeting Xinjiang women’s birth rates through IUD’s, sterilizations, surveillance, and threats, multiple women told the New York Times. 
  • “The women of Xinjiang are in danger,” one woman told the Times. “The government wants to replace our people.”
  • “You become their toy,” another woman told the publication, describing how she was raped by multiple men in a Chinese detainment camp. “You just want to die at the time, but unfortunately you don’t.”

Chinese government officials are targeting Xinjiang women’s birth rates through IUD’s, sterilizations, surveillance, and threats, multiple women told the New York Times.

Chinese authorities are encouraging some women to have more children but forcing others to have less, the New York Times reported, in what an Associated Press investigation previously called “demographic genocide” against Uighur Muslims.

The government specifically targets women and seeks to control the community’s birth rates, the Times found through reviewing official government statistics, notices, and reports, and interviewing dozens of Muslim women and men from Xinjiang.

Chinese authorities pressure women to get sterilized or have IUD’s inserted, and government officials are sent to live with the women and watch to see if the women show any signs of discontent as they recover, the Times reported. One woman said that a Chinese government official sent to watch her groped her. Others told the publication that they were detained in internment camps for having too many children or refusing contraceptives. Still others said that they were forced to take drugs that stopped their menstrual cycles, and one woman told the Times she was raped in an internment camp.

An AP investigation previously found that the Chinese government has created a “climate of terror around having children, as seen in interview after interview.” Between 2015 and 2018, the latest years for government statistics, birthrates in the mostly Uighur regions of Hotan and Kashgar have plummeted by over 60%, while in Xinjiang, birth rates fell almost 24% in the last year alone. Those statistics compared to the 4.2% decline in birthrates across China, according to the AP.

Chinese officials have said in the past that the birth control measures are meant to even the number of children birthed by Han Chinese and ethnic minorities. A Chinese ministry spokesman told the Associated Press in June that the publication’s story was “fabricated” and “fake news,” adding that the Chinese government does not discriminate against minorities or ethnicities.

“Everyone, regardless of whether they’re an ethnic minority or Han Chinese, must follow and act in accordance with the law,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told the AP.

Former President Donald Trump declared China’s crackdown on the Uighur Muslim community to be genocide, and President Joe Biden re-affirmed this label in March, the Times reported. But China has continued to deny that it has targeted Uighur Muslims and attributes declining birth rates in Xinjiang to the country’s longtime restrictions on birth.

“Whether to have birth control or what contraceptive method they choose are completely their own wishes,” Xinjiang government spokesman Xu Guixiang said in March. “No one nor any agency shall interfere.”

Xinjiang women told the Times that they did not have a choice: that government officials forced IUD’s on them and threatened them with heavy fines or imprisonment in internment camps if they have more than one child.

Hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other central Asian minorities from Xinjiang have been put in internment camps and prisons, the Times reported. Xinjiang residents are closely watched by the government, which puts Xinjiang children in boarding schools and sends parents to work in factories, according to the Times.

Qelbinur Sedik described pleading with the government in 2017 to be exempt from being fitted with an IUD when she was almost 50 and had obeyed the government’s birth limits of only one child. Workers threatened that if she did not give in they would take her to the police, the Times reported, so Sedik went to a government clinic and wept as a doctor inserted an IUD into her with metal forceps.

“I felt like I was no longer a normal woman,” the tearful woman told the Times. “Like I was missing something.”

Sedik experienced heavy bleeding and headaches after her IUD procedure and later had the IUD removed secretly and then reinserted, according to the Times. She decided to be sterilized instead in 2019 because she couldn’t take the IUD any longer.

“The government had become so strict, and I could no longer take the IUD,’” Sedik who fled to the Netherlands in 2019, told the Times. “I lost all hope in myself.”

A community worker in Urumqi, where Sedik used to live, announced last year that women who are between the ages of 18 and 59 must go through both pregnancy and birth control inspections, warning that if the women fought with the workers at the door or refused to “cooperate with us, you will be taken to the police station.” The Times viewed screenshots of the messages provided by Sedik.

“Do not gamble with your life,” one message said, according to the publication, “don’t even try.”

Years after Gulnar Omirzakh had her third child, officials told her she had violated birth limits and owed almost $3,000 in fines, the Times reported. The officials threatened to detain her and her children if she didn’t pay, so she borrowed money and fled to Kazakhstan, she told the publication.

“The women of Xinjiang are in danger,” Omirzakh told the Times. “The government wants to replace our people.”

Tursunay Ziyawudun, who was detained at a camp for 10 months for traveling to Kazakhstan, told the Times that she was taken to a dark cell on three different occasions where several masked men raped her and penetrated her with electric batons.

“You become their toy,” Ziyawudun told the Times over the phone as she sobbed. “You just want to die at the time, but unfortunately you don’t.”

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