China claims that the interment emancipation of Uygur people is resulting in a decrease in the birth rate and natural population growth.
A report by the Xinjiang Development Research Centre, a think tank set up in 2019, claims that extremism had incited people to resist family planning and its eradication had given Uygur women more autonomy when deciding whether to have children.
It was shared on Twitter by the Chinese Embassy in the US. The same account shared multiple posts about the Uyghur people and how they are choosing to focus on “personal development” instead of birthing children.
Xinjiang region is primarily populated by the Uyghur, a Turkic ethnic group of people who are mainly Muslim. International outcry about their internment and Chinese government efforts to “tackle Islamic extremism” in the province fell on deaf ears in China. Many governments, including Pakistan’s, resisted calls to censure China over its treatment of Uyghur Muslims.
In some cases, people alleged that Uyghurs were forced to sacrifice their religious ideals at “vocational education centres”, another name for internment camps.
“She said they had to eat pork and drink alcohol, something she still has to do,” a Pakistani merchant who visited his Uyghur wife at her parents’ house in Xinjiang told AFP in 2019. “She was told that she had to satisfy the authorities that she no longer possesses radical thoughts if she does not want to go back,” he explained, adding that she had given up praying and the Holy Quran had been replaced by books on China at his in-laws home.
Former detainees have said they were held simply for following Islamic traditions, such as having a long beard or wearing a veil.
In its report, the Xinjiang Development Research Centre denied oft repeated claims that the population changes were due to forced sterilization of the Uyghur population.
A German scholar earlier published research supporting the claim that China was trying to control the size of the Uyghur population.
“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,” said the report. It failed to mention how their minds were emancipated.
The report said safe, effective and “appropriate” contraceptive measures are now available to couples of childbearing age in Xinjiang, and their personal decisions on whether to use those measures.
The birthrate in Xinjiang decreased from 1.6% in 2017 to 1% in 2018 and the natural population growth rate fell from 1.1% to 0.6%.
The report heavily emphasized personal choice over government policy as the reason for the declining birth rate. China’s official stance on religion is that everyone is free to practice it but religious activities must be organized under state regulations and should be separate from education and politics.