China policies could cut millions of Uyghur births in XinjiangJune 06, 2021
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, shared exclusively with Reuters ahead of publication, 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.
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 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.
Reuters shared the research and methodology with more than a dozen experts in population analysis, birth prevention policies and international human rights law, who said the analysis and conclusions were sound.
Some of the experts cautioned that demographic projections over a period of decades can be affected by unforeseen factors. The Xinjiang government has not publicly set official ethnic quota or population size goals for ethnic populations in Southern Xinjiang, and quotas used in the analysis are based on proposed figures from Chinese officials and academics.
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.
Two of the Uyghur people said they had direct family members who were detained for having too many children. Reuters could not independently verify the detentions.
“It is not up to choice,” said the official, based in southern Xinjiang, who asked not to be named because they fear reprisals from the local government. “All Uyghurs must comply… it is an urgent task.”
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.
For example, 15 documents created by state funded academics and officials showcased in the Zenz report include comments from Xinjiang officials and state-affiliated academics referencing the need to increase the proportion of Han residents and decrease the ratio of Uyghurs or described the high concentration of Uyghurs as a threat to social stability.
“The problem in southern Xinjiang is mainly the unbalanced population structure … the proportion of the Han population is too low,” Liu Yilei, an academic and the deputy secretary general of the Communist Party committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a government body with administrative authority in the region, told a July 2020 symposium, published on the Xinjiang University website.
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.