The Chinese Embassy in the U.S. drew criticism after Posting a Tweet Regarding Uyghur women. The tweet, which has now been removed from Twitter, said:

“Study shows that in the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uyghur women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines. They are more confident and independent.”

The tweet included a link to a report published by the Xinjiang Development Research Center. According to China Daily, the report attributed “decreases in the birthrate and natural population growth rate in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in 2018” to the “eradication of religious extremism.”

This attribution contradicts accusations of forced mass sterilization of the Uyghur people administered by the Chinese government. The Chinese government has strongly denied these accusations of mass sterilization.

In recent years, China has received criticism for the internment of millions of Uyghurs. The New York Times released parts of “more than 400 pages of internal documents” that suggest China allegedly organized a mass detention program designed to remove religious extremism from the minds of the Uyghur ethnic minority population. 

Chinese officials commonly refer to these detention camps as “boarding schools” or officially, a “vocational skills education center”. One document, which was purportedly given out to Chinese government officials, includes instructions on how to respond if an Uyghur child asks about the disappearance of their family members. 

The corresponding sample response instructs Chinese government officials to say: 

“They’re in a training school set up by the government to undergo collective systematic training, study and instruction. They have very good conditions for studying and living there, and you have nothing to worry about.” 

Another sample response instructs officials to say: 

“Your family member has been sent to study because they have come under a degree of harmful influence in religious extremism and violent terrorist thoughts,” if asked why their family members have to take part in the ‘training school’.

There are long standing tensions between the Chinese government and the Uyghurs. In 2014, a group of people, suspected to be Uyghur, attacked a train station in Kunming, China leaving 29 people dead and at least 130 more people injured. The Chinese government referred to the incident as a terrorist attack. 

According to China Daily, the report from Xinjiang Development Research Center suggests that the recent decline in Uyghur population growth rate and birth rate is not a result of coercion from the Chinese government, as suggested by the Associated Press

“The state regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands, interviews and data show. Even while the use of IUDs and sterilization has fallen nationwide, it is rising sharply in Xinjiang. The population control measures are backed by mass detention both as a threat and as a punishment for failure to comply.”

Rather, China Daily says, the decline in birth rate comes as a byproduct of the education in the detention camps which provided Uyghur women with a greater degree of autonomy, in addition to more Uyghur women freely choosing to use birth control.

“The report on population change in Xinjiang published by the Xinjiang Development Research Center said extremism had incited people to resist family planning and its eradication had given Uygur women more autonomy when deciding whether to have children,” and “In the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uygur women were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted…Women have since been striving to become healthy, confident and independent,” said China Daily.

Written ByLinn Win

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