Chinese birth control policies could cut between 2.6 to 4.5 million births of the Uyghur and other ethnic minorities in southern Xinjiang within 20 years, up to a third of the region’s projected minority population, according to a new analysis by a German researcher.
The report also includes a previously unreported cache of research produced by Chinese academics and officials on Beijing’s intent behind the birth control policies in Xinjiang, where official data shows birth-rates have already dropped by 48.7% between 2017 and 2019.
Adrian Zenz’s research comes amid growing calls among some western countries for an investigation into whether China’s actions in Xinjiang amount to genocide, a charge Beijing vehemently denies.
Rights groups, researchers and some residents say the policies include newly enforced birth limits on Uyghur and other mainly Muslim ethnic minorities, the transfers of workers to other regions and the internment of an estimated one million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in a network of camps.
“This (research and analysis) really shows the intent behind the Chinese government’s long-term plan for the Uyghur population,” Zenz told Reuters.
The Chinese government has not made public any official target for reducing the proportion of Uyghur and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
But based on analysis of official birth data, demographic projections and ethnic ratios proposed by Chinese academics and officials, Zenz estimates Beijing’s policies could increase the predominant Han Chinese population in southern Xinjiang to around 25% from 8.4% currently.
“The so-called ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang is pure nonsense,” China’s Foreign Ministry told Reuters in a statement. “It is a manifestation of the ulterior motives of anti-China forces in the United States and the West and the manifestation of those who suffer from Sinophobia.”
Official data showing the decrease in Xinjiang birth rates between 2017 and 2019 “does not reflect the true situation” and Uyghur birth rates remain higher than Han ethnic people in Xinjiang, the ministry added.
The new research compares a population projection done by Xinjiang-based researchers for the government-run Chinese Academy of Sciences based on data predating the crackdown, to official data on birth-rates and what Beijing describes as “population optimization” measures for Xinjiang’s ethnic minorities introduced since 2017.
It found the population of ethnic minorities in Uyghur-dominated southern Xinjiang would reach between 8.6-10.5 million by 2040 under the new birth prevention policies.
That compares to 13.14 million projected by Chinese researchers using data pre-dating the implemented birth policies and a current population of around 9.47 million.
‘END UYGHUR DOMINANCE’
The move to prevent births among Uyghur and other minorities is in sharp contrast with China’s wider birth policies.
Last week, Beijing announced married couples can have three children up from two in response to China’s rapidly ageing population. The announcement contained no reference to any specific ethnic groups.
Before then, measures officially limited the country’s majority Han ethnic group and minority groups including Uyghur to two children – three in rural areas.
Some residents, researchers and rights groups say the newly enforced rules now disproportionately impact Islamic minorities, who face detention for exceeding birth quotas, rather than fines as elsewhere in China.
In a Communist Party record leaked in 2020, also reported by Zenz, a re-education camp in southern Xinjiang’s Karakax county listed birth violations as the reason for internment in 149 cases out of 484 detailed in the list. China has called the list a “fabrication”.
Birth quotas for ethnic minorities have become strictly enforced in Xinjiang since 2017, including though the separation of married couples, and the use of sterilisation procedures, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and abortions, three Uyghur people and one health official inside Xinjiang told Reuters.
The Xinjiang government did not respond to a request for comment about whether birth limits are more strictly enforced against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. Xinjiang officials have previously said all procedures are voluntary.
Still, in Xinjiang counties where Uyghurs are the majority ethnic group, birth rates dropped 50.1% in 2019, for example, compared to a 19.7% drop in majority ethnic Han counties, according to official data compiled by Zenz.
Zenz’s report says analyses published by state funded academics and officials between 2014 and 2020 show the strict implementation of the policies are driven by national security concerns, and are motivated by a desire to dilute the Uyghur population, increase Han migration and boost loyalty to the ruling Communist Party.
Xinjiang must “end the dominance of the Uyghur group”, said Liao Zhaoyu, dean of the institute of frontier history and geography at Xinjiang’s Tarim University at an academic event in 2015, shortly before the birth policies and broader internment programme were enforced in full.