Chinese policies aimed specifically at reducing the predominantly Muslim Uyghur population in Xinjiang could prevent the birth of around four million babies over the next two decades, new research shows.
Projections show that reducing minority birth rates could increase the proportion of Han Chinese – a majority in the rest of China – from 8.4 percent currently to 25 percent in the region.
Beijing has for years sought to tighten its grip on the vast border area historically marked by economic inequality and sporadic manifestations of unrest.
Millions of Han Chinese have moved to Xinjiang in recent decades to find work in the coal and gas-rich region as part of a colonization campaign that has caused friction on the ground.
German researcher Adrian Zenz said publicly available articles written by Chinese security researchers accused the density of minority communities as the “underlying reason” for the unrest and proposed population control as a method of reducing harm. risks.
At the same time, official documented fears about the arid region’s lack of natural resources to support an influx of Han settlers suggest that Chinese authorities view birth suppression as a key tool to manipulate the region’s demographic makeup, a. Zenz said.
Last week, China announced a major reform of its policy governing the number of children a couple can have, bringing it to three as the country grapples with an aging population.
But academics say Beijing does not consider all babies equally desirable in Xinjiang and is actively pursuing a policy of reducing the number of children born to ethnic minorities.
The strategies include intensified birth control policies in the region – including imprisonment for having too many children and allegations of forced sterilization.
Focusing on four prefectures in southern Xinjiang and using models recommended by several Chinese academics, Zenz calculated that Beijing could aim to increase the number of Han in these “traditional Uyghur centers” to a quarter of the population.
Zenz said he found “an intention to reduce the population growth of ethnic minorities in order to increase the proportionate Han population in southern Xinjiang.”
Official data shows Xinjiang’s birth rates nearly halved between 2017 and 2019 – the largest drop of any region in China and the most extreme in the world since 1950, according to an analysis by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute .
Zenz calculated that the natural growth of the ethnic minority population in southern Xinjiang would have reached 13.14 million by 2040, but the suppression measures could prevent up to 4.5 million births among Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.
China has faced growing international criticism of its policies in Xinjiang, where the United States claims Beijing is committing genocide.
At least one million people belonging to majority Muslim minorities have been detained in camps in the region, according to rights groups who also accuse the authorities of imposing forced labor.
Beijing retaliated against the accusations, touting its counterterrorism and economic achievements in Xinjiang, applying tit-for-tat sanctions and backing prosecutions against its harshest critics, including Zenz.
© 2021 AFP