The plight of the Uygur ethnic group in China's Xinjiang province has been a major source of criticism against the Chinese Communist Party regime for decades.
Numerous international agencies have alleged widespread systemic abuses targeting the Uygurs, who are predominantly Muslims, such as construction of mass concentration camps and sterilisation.
In June last year, the Associated Press reported the Chinese government "regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands”. “The population control measures are backed by mass detention both as a threat and as a punishment for failure to comply. Having too many children is a major reason people are sent to detention camps… with the parents of three or more ripped away from their families unless they can pay huge fines,” Associated Press reported.
On Thursday, China Daily, a state-run publication, claimed "Decreases in the birth rate and natural population growth rate in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in 2018 resulted from the eradication of religious extremism."
China Daily claimed the dip in population growth was not a result of forced sterilisation. China Daily cited a report on population change by the Xinjiang Development Research Center that claimed "extremism had incited people to resist family planning and its eradication had given Uygur women more autonomy when deciding whether to have children".
"For a period of time, the penetration of religious extremism made implementing family planning policy in southern Xinjiang, including Kashgar and Hotan prefectures, particularly difficult... That had led to rapid population growth in those areas as some extremists incited locals to resist family planning policy, resulting in the prevalence of early marriage and bigamy, and frequent unplanned births,” China Daily quoted the report as saying.
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“The Uygur population grew from 10.2 million in 2010 to 12.7 million in 2018, an increase of more than 25 per cent, while the population of Han people in the region increased by just 2 per cent to 9 million over the same period,” China Daily stated. After the “eradication of extremism,” China Daily claimed, “the birth rate in Xinjiang decreased from 1.6 per cent in 2017 to 1 per cent in 2018 and the natural population growth rate fell from 1.1 per cent to 0.6 per cent”.
“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,” the publication claimed. The statement on “baby-making machines” was also shared by the Chinese embassy in the US on its Twitter handle.