Forced sterilizations and abortions targeting Uyghurs in northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) have dramatically increased in recent years and likely constitute a government-led campaign of genocide under United Nations' definitions, according to a report released Monday.
Since then, Uyghur women with three or more children have increasingly been subjected to heavy fines, required to submit to pregnancy tests and examinations, and forced to implant intrauterine devices (IUDs) or undergo sterilization surgeries, the report said.
The population-control measures are backed by mass detention both as a threat and as punishment for failure to comply. Two years later, in January 2018, four officials in military camouflage came knocking at her door anyway.
One former inmate spoke of watching a Uyghur woman forced by camp guards to confess that she "gave birth to too many children" because she was "uneducated and know little about the law". Her husband was already in the concentration camps and she was warned she would join him if she didn't pay up. "To prevent people from having children is wrong", she said. "They want to destroy us as a people", the Kazakh woman sobbed while talking with investigators. An investigation by the BBC in 2019 suggested that children in Xinjiang were being systematically separated from their families in an effort to isolate them from their Muslim communities.
They were referring to an Associated Press investigation published this week that found the Chinese government is taking draconian measures to slash birth rates among Uighurs and other minorities, while encouraging some of the country's Han majority to have more children.
"This kind of drop is unprecedented. there's a ruthlessness to it", said Zenz, a leading expert in the policing of China's minority regions.
The World Uyghur Congress, a non-governmental human rights organization, and the multi-partisan Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) issued statements on Monday asking the worldwide community to conduct an investigation into possible crimes against humanity in Xinjiang. However, Chinese officials have said in the past that the new measures are merely meant to be fair, allowing both Han Chinese and ethnic minorities the same number of children. She says she was forced to get an intrauterine contraceptive device, and that Chinese authorities threatened to detain her if she didn't pay the fine for having a third child.
For decades, Xinjiang's population grew quickly, as minorities enjoyed more lax birth control restrictions than Han Chinese.
Zenz's report uses Chinese government documents, regional data, and interviews to show systematic reproductive repression against non-ethnic Han people in Xinjiang. Some rural minorities are punished even for having the three children allowed by the law.
Zenz's report, published by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation, appears to confirm earlier reports by RFA's Uyghur Service of former camp detainees, including one named Tursunay Ziyawudun who previous year said she and others held at the camps were routinely made to take medication that affected their reproductive cycles or subjected to forced sterilization.
One former detainee, Tursunay Ziyawudun, said she was injected until she stopped having her period and kicked repeatedly in the lower stomach during interrogations.
Other observers said the Chinese program is simply a slow-moving form of genocide, as local birth rates are suppressed while Han Chinese migration into Xinjiang is goosed with subsidies and rewards, including reported cash rewards for intermarriage between Han Chinese and Uyghurs.
About 200,000 IUDs were inserted in Xinjiang in 2014, according to Zenz, compared to almost 330,000 in 2018 - a 60% increase.
Chinese health statistics also show a sterilisation boom in Xinjiang.
China appears to be using coercive birth control in Xinjiang as part of a "wider game plan of ethno-racial domination", Mr Zenz wrote in the report. Even while sterilisation rates plummeted in the rest of the country, they surged seven-fold in Xinjiang from 2016 to 2018, to more than 60,000 procedures. The National Security Council's top Asia staffer, Matthew Pottinger, told me that Trump said something very similar during his November 2017 trip to China. Across the Xinjiang region, birth rates continue to plummet, falling almost 24 percent past year alone - compared with just 4.2 percent nationwide, statistics show.
"The intention may not be to fully eliminate the Uighur population, but it will sharply diminish their vitality, making them easier to assimilate", said Darren Byler, an expert on Uighurs at the University of Colorado.
Some experts take it a step further.