The Chinese government has come up with a new plan to stop Uyghurs from having children in an effort to stop the spread of this Islamic ethnic minority in China.
While there have been women who have spoken out about forced birth control, the practice is much more widespread than originally thought, according to the Associated Press.
The campaign in the last four years in the west region of Xinjiang has been characterized as a form of "demographic genocide."
The state makes a regular habit of subjecting minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilization, and abortion on hundreds of thousands of would-be mothers. While the use of IUDs and sterilization have dropped nationwide, it is surging in Xinjiang.
These population control measures use threats of mass detention as a punishment for those who do not cooperate. Women who have too many children are sent to detention camps. Parents of three or more children are forcibly removed from their children unless they pay a steep fine.
Birth rates among the mostly Uyghur regions of Hotan and Kashgar dropped by more than 60 percent from 2015 to 2018, which is the latest year available for this statistic. All across the Xinjiang region, birth rates have dropped dramatically, plummeting almost 24 percent last year alone, compared to just 4.2 percent nationwide.
The government's investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in birth control has transformed Xinjiang from one of China's fastest-growing regions to one of its slowest within a few years, this based on new research for the AP by Adrian Zenz.
"This kind of drop is unprecedented....there’s a ruthlessness to it," said Zenz, a leading expert in China's policing efforts in minority regions. "This is part of a wider control campaign to subjugate the Uyghurs."
China's foreign ministry has called the story "fabricated" and "fake news," saying the government protects the legal rights of minorities and treats people of differing ethnicities equally.
"Everyone, regardless of whether they’re an ethnic minority or Han Chinese, must follow and act in accordance with the law," said Zhao Lijian, ministry spokesman.
Outside experts say the heavy birth control efforts by the Chinese government are part of a state-orchestrated assault on the Uyghurs in an effort to rid them of their faith and force them to assimilate.
"The intention may not be to fully eliminate the Uyghur population, but it will sharply diminish their vitality," Darren Byler said, an expert on Uyghurs at the University of Colorado. "It will make them easier to assimilate into the mainstream Chinese population."
However, another perspective is that this is an active attempt at genocide.
"It’s genocide, full stop. It’s not immediate, shocking, mass-killing on the spot type genocide, but it’s slow, painful, creeping genocide," Joanne Smith Finley said, an employee at Newcastle University in the UK. "These are direct means of genetically reducing the Uyghur population."