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Australian think tank reports China’s systematic efforts to reduce Uyghur population in Xinjiang

The sharp drop in birth-rates in Xinjiang is proportionally the most extreme over a two-year period globally since 1950, the report says (IANS photo)

A latest report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has provided new evidence documenting the effectiveness of the Chinese government’s systematic efforts to reduce the size of the indigenous population of Xinjiang through a range of coercive birth-control policies.

The ASPI report titled 'Family De-planning: The Coercive Campaign to Drive Down Indigenous Birth-rates in Xinjiang' released Wednesday used the Chinese government’s own publicly available statistics to compile a dataset of county-level birth-rates (natality) across 2011-2019.

"Beginning in April 2017, Chinese Communist Party authorities in Xinjiang launched a series of 'strike-hard' campaigns against 'illegal births' with the explicit aim to 'reduce and stabilise a moderate birth level' and decrease the birth-rate in southern Xinjiang by at least 4.00 per thousand from 2016 levels. This followed years of preferential exceptions from family-planning rules for indigenous nationalities," the report authored by Researcher Nathan Ruser and Dr James Leibold, a Senior Fellow with the institute, said.

"The crackdown has led to an unprecedented and precipitous drop in official birth-rates in Xinjiang since 2017. The birth-rate across the region fell by nearly half (48.74 percent) in the two years between 2017 and 2019. The largest declines have been in counties where Uyghurs and other indigenous communities are concentrated. Across counties that are majority-indigenous the birth-rate fell, on average, by 43.7 percent in a single year between 2017 and 2018. The birth-rate in counties with a 90 percent or greater indigenous population declined by 56.5 percent, on average, in that same year," it added.

The report mentions that as 'Party' officials are loosening family-planning rules on Han women, they are simultaneously cracking down on the reproductive rights of Uyghur and other indigenous nationalities in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) over perceived fears of instability and uneven growth.
"In the name of stability and control, the CCP under President Xi Jinping is seeking to fundamentally transform the social and physical landscape of Xinjiang. This includes the construction of hundreds of prison-like detention centres and the mass internment of Uyghurs, Kazakh and other indigenous nationalities; a regime of highly intrusive and near constant surveillance; the erasure of indigenous culture, language and religious practices and sites; and mandatory job assignments that are indicative of forced labour; among other now well-documented human rights abuses," the report details.

The ASPI, formed in 2001 as an independent, non‑partisan think tank, provides the Australian Government with fresh ideas on Australia’s defence, security and strategic policy choices.

The report further mentioned that policy implementation documents from Xinjiang explicitly set birth-rate targets that are among the lowest in the world, and the birth-rate has declined from a rate similar to those in neighbouring countries such as Mongolia or Kazakhstan to only slightly higher than that of Japan.

The sharp drop in birth-rates in Xinjiang (a region with a population of nearly 25 million) is proportionally the most extreme over a two-year period globally since 1950, it revealed.

"Our analysis builds on previous work and provides compelling evidence that Chinese government policies in Xinjiang may constitute an act of genocide; however further research is required to establish the intent and mental element of this crime. We call for the Chinese government to give researchers, journalists and human rights experts full and open access to Xinjiang," the report concluded.

(The full ASPI report can be found here)