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9th Aug 2020

EU: Accountability needed on Uighur 'forced sterilisations'

  • A statue of Mao Zedong in Xinjiang. In 2018, 80 percent of all new IUD placements in China were performed in Xinjiang - despite the fact that the region only makes up 1.8 percent of the nation's population, according to the report (Photo: Michael Wong)

The European Commission has said those behind the alleged forced sterilisation and abortion of Uighurs and other minorities throughout China must be held accountable.

"If this is confirmed, such appalling practices, which would constitute serious human rights violations, must be stopped immediately and those responsible must be held accountable," a European Commission spokeswoman told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday (30 June).

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The comments follow the publication of a 32-page report on Monday by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation think tank.

The report lays out evidence that approaches the genocide-criteria of "imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group", cited in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The European Commission refrained from describing the abuse as genocide, saying that the issues documented in the report need to be confirmed.

Drafted by China scholar Adrian Zenz, the report found a near-zero population growth in an Uighur region of China, home to a Muslim-minority group that has been rounded up and sent into so-called re-education camps.

Growth rates fell by 84 percent between 2015 and 2018, and further in 2019, in the two largest Uighur Muslim prefectures.

"In 2018, 80 percent of all new IUD placements in China were performed in Xinjiang, despite the fact that the region only makes up 1.8 percent of the nation's population," it says.

It also cited documents from 2019 spelling out a Chinese government campaign of mass female sterilisation in rural Uyghur regions like Xinjiang, targeting up to 34 percent of all married women of childbearing age.

"This project targeted all of southern Xinjiang, and continued in 2020 with increased funding," notes the report.

It said budget figures indicate hundreds of thousands of tubal ligation sterilisation procedures throughout last year and into 2020, with the central government paying for some it.

Critics say the campaign is part of a wider effort to replace the Uighurs with a more desirable population one either through elimination or by forced assimilation.

The Uighur regions were once among fastest-growing regions in China. Minority groups, especially families living in the countryside, were partially exempt from China's now-abandoned one-child policy.

But the mood changed in 2014 following a visit to the region by China's authoritarian president Xi Jinping and amid allegations of Islamic terrorist attacks carried out by the minority.

The United States was quick to react to the report, with US secretary of State Michael Pompeo demanding China end the practice immediately.

"We call on the Chinese Communist Party to immediately end these horrific practices and ask all nations to join the United States in demanding an end to these dehumanising abuses," he said.

A spokesperson for the Chinese government is quoted in the Associated Press as describing the contents of the report as fabricated.

"Everyone, regardless of whether they're an ethnic minority or Han Chinese, must follow and act in accordance with the law," he said, claiming the government treats all ethnicities equally.

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