By: Meghan Travaline
Hospitals in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are killing infants and forcing abortions upon Uyghur women pregnant in violation of China’s family planning restrictions.
According to whistleblower Hasiyet Abdulla, a former Uyghur obstetrician, maternity wards in hospitals keep detailed records of families in the Uyghur region. Uyghur families are allowed three children in rural areas and two children in urban areas. Babies also must be three to four years apart. If women have children in violation of these policies, babies are aborted, and, if they are born, are taken from their mothers and killed in the hospital maternity ward. Abdulla said babies born at nine months were killed after inducing labor.
In late June, German researcher Adrian Zenz published a report on the human rights violations and genocide that China commits against its minority population, specifically Muslim population. His report details sterilizations and mandatory birth control of China’s minority populations, which is considered genocide under Article II (d) of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Under this section, the defintion of genocide is: any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Thus, what China is doing to its minority populations is genocide, a severe human rights violation, and is a crime punishable under international law.
In his June report titled “Sterilizations, IUDs, and Mandatory Birth Control: The CCP's Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birthrates in Xinjiang”, Zenz cites a paper published by the Institute of Sociology at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences which emphasizes the notion that the growth of the Uyghur population in traditionally Uyghur dominated regions “weakens the national identity and identification with the Chinese Nation-Race.”
Those in Chinese academic circles believe this is a threat to national security for two reasons. First, because the ethnic, religious, and territorial factors associated with the Uyghur people living in a certain area for so long coupled with increasing population “strengthen[s] the viewpoint that one ethnic group owns a [particular] land area.” Second, they believe the population growth will lead to a drain on resources, which will give rise to religious extremism and the Uyghurs’ desire to split from China due to unmet needs. Accordingly, those academics attempt to undermine the Uyghurs’ religious beliefs as extreme in order to justify the need for population control in the name of national security.
For example, the Uyghur beliefs that babies are a gift, birth should not be controlled, and they should not abort their children are extreme to Chinese officials because those beliefs place religion above economic concerns. The government believes this “religious extremism” is one of the main factors which led to a Uyghur population boom, setting the scene for the Chinese internment camps or “reeducation camps.”
Zenz notes when the Uyghur population had children in excess of the mandated limits in the past, they would simply pay a fine. However, over the last three years there has been “Special Campaign to Control Birth Control Violations.” Following this push to control birth and the birth control offenders, women who had previously violated the policies were forced to “adopt birth control measures with long-term effectiveness,” in other words, intrauterine devices (IUDs) or sterilizations, and were subjected to “vocational skills education and training,” in other words, internment camps. The government increased fines to three to eight times the average annual disposable income. If women do not abort “illegal” children or pay fines for violations, they will go to reeducation internment camps. Women at internment camps are surgically sterilized or given medications to stop their menstrual cycles.
Further, he discovered in 2019, China intended to implement IUDs into a minimum of 80% of the Uyghur women of childbearing age. The women were subjected to quarterly IUD checks, monthly family planning visits, and bi-monthly pregnancy tests. The government actually began “offering” free birth control surgery. Reports indicate the threat of internment if the offer was not accepted.
Since Zenz’s report on sterilization and IUDs, more people like Abdulla are speaking out against the atrocities and shedding light into real stories of forced abortions and infanticide.
One woman, who has since escaped to Turkey, was forced to abort her fourth child in 2004 through an injection in her belly button when she was five months pregnant.
Amina Mamtimin had four children, two registered to her sister, and was forced to flee when she became pregnant with her fifth child. Only she, her child in utero, and her youngest daughter were able to obtain passports. The rest of her family never followed: her husband was sent to “reeducation camps.” She is unaware of the locations of her other three children.
Roshangul Tashmuhammad, the daughter of an imam, tells two stories about her sister-in-law. When her sister-in-law became pregnant for the second time, the authorities took her to the hospital to check on her baby. They aborted the baby because they claimed the baby died in the womb. When she became pregnant again, she hid from the government, but when authorities discovered she had another child, her husband was jailed.
Zumret Abdullah, a nurse who worked in a hospital maternity ward for three years, witnessed an estimated 90 forced abortions. The procedures differed based on the babies’ gestational ages. Early in pregnancy, women were forced to take pills. After five months, the babies suffered lethal injections into their heads. Women were unable to bury their children; the babies were simply thrown in trash bags.
One woman was forced to have eight abortions. When she became pregnant in 2016, she was told her body was so damaged that she would have to spend weeks in the hospital preparing for another abortion. Instead, she fled. She now lives only with her son, but was able to find her 17-year-old daughter through social media. Despite the intense surveillance, they are able to “communicate” with each other.
These human rights violations occurring in China must be stopped. China is committing atrocities against innocent babies and a religious minority.
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was formed in 1948 to ensure that the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany never happened again. However, genocide of a Muslim minority population in China is occuring before our eyes 75 years after the end of World War II. China is one of 152 states to ratify the Genocide Convention. As a member, China has an obligation not to commit genocide. Other members who have ratified the Genocide Convention must act. Sanctions must be placed against China. Governments must address China’s horrific actions. Under international law, the Chinese government must be tried for crimes of genocide.