Twitter has removed a post by China’s US embassy claiming that Uighur women have been “emancipated” from extremism and were no longer “baby-making machines”. The post linked to an article denying allegations of forced sterilisation in Xinjiang.
Twitter said the post had “violated the Twitter rules” but did not provide further details.
The post linked to an article by state mouthpiece China Daily, and said: “Study shows that in the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uygur 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The phrase was taken directly from the attached article, which said an unpublished study by the Xinjiang Development Research Center had found that decreases in the birthrate and population growth rate of the region in 2018 was due to the eradication of religious extremism.
“The changes were not caused by “forced sterilization” of the Uygur population, as repeatedly claimed by some western scholars and politicians,” it said, noting by name German researcher Adrian Zenz, who specialises in Xinjiang and Tibet by examining Chinese government documents. His research is a primary source of information about labour programmes in both regions, and has attracted the ire of Chinese state media.
The Chinese embassy’s Twitter account later reposted the story with a different caption: “Study shows the population change in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region involves the overall improvement in population quality. An increasing number of youths chose to spend more time and energy on personal development.”
Other Chinese state media reports said women were “spontaneously” taking up free IUDs and tubal ligations (a form of permanent surgical contraception), and the changes in birthrate were due to government limits of three children per family, poverty alleviation and education improvements, and changes to cultural marriage practices and religious opposition to contraception.
In recent years, China has escalated its crackdown on ethnic Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region, including the mass internment of an estimated one million people, intense human and digital surveillance, re-education programs, suppression of religious activity and destruction of religious sites, forced labour, and enforced sterilisation of women. Experts have said the policies amount to cultural genocide. China rejects the accusations, and says the camps are vocational training centres necessary to combat religious extremism and terrorism.
An extensive investigation by Associated Press found authorities subjected hundreds of thousands of Uighur women to pregnancy checks, and forced intrauterine devices, sterilisation and abortion. The AP found birthrates collapsed by more than 60% between 2015 and 2018 in the mostly Uighur regions of Hotan and Kashgar, compared with a fall of 4.2% nationwide. The AP said its findings were on based on government statistics, state documents and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members and a former detention camp instructor.
The statistics on declining birthrate and population growth among Uighurs in Xinjiang have been known for months, however Chinese authorities have not previously attributed it to its programs of “eradicating extremism”.
In response to a CNN article on similar findings, the Chinese government said the drop in birthrate was due to “comprehensive implementation of the family planning policy”. It did not dispute the numbers in the report.
In September one Uighur woman, Sidik, told the Guardian she was coerced into having an IUD at the age of 47, and being sterilised three years later. She said a text message – seen by the Guardian – came from authorities and told her: “Do not gamble with your life, don’t even try.”