Current research on the persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang by Adrian Zenz

Some scholars tend to be persistent in producing new evidence of their work. Adrian Zenz is one such researcher who comes up with new information and analysis which clearly shows that China has not only persecuted the Uyghur people in Xinjiang but also introduced through forced birth-control measures, which is likely to cut between 2.6 and 4.5 million minority births. Significantly, this is the first peer-reviewed academic publication on the longterm population impact of China’s crackdown on the Uyghur and other minority groups in Xinjiang. In the Central Asian Survey, Zenz presents (10 June 2021) comprehensive new evidence based on published statements and reports from Chinese academics and officials. The core message is that the Uyghur population as such is a threat that endangers China’s national security. Zenz told Reuters that the new research really “shows the intent behind the Chinese government’s long-term plans for the Uyghur population”. There are two notable bits of information which help us in better understanding the Chinese intent.

First, is the estimate of ethnic minority population in southern Xinjiang, under China’s birth control policies. This is estimated to reach somewhere between 8.6 and 10.5 million by 2040, compared to 13.1 million projected by Chinese researchers before Beijing’s crackdown. The second statistics is that by 2019, the authorities in Xinjiang had “planned to subject at least 80% of women of childbearing age in the rural southern four minority prefectures to intrusive birth prevention surgeries, referring to IUDs or sterilisations”. According to official Chinese statistics, there was a 48.7% decline in birth rates in ethnic minority areas of Xinjiang between 2017 and 2019.

In another piece written for Foreign Policy (8 June 2021) Adrian Zenz and Erin Rosenberg, an attorney specialising in international criminal law, state that five governments had declared China’s actions against Uyghurs as genocide, based on evidence of systematic suppression of births. China had reduced Uyghur birth rates to “optimise” ethnic population ratios for counter-terrorism purposes. This would slow down population growth by preventing between 2.6 and 4.5 million births by 2040 in southern Xinjiang alone. The other way to reduce Uyghur presence in Xinjiang would be to settle more Han people. According to Zenz and Rosenberg, Beijing is planning to settle 300,000 Han people in southern Xinjiang by 2022.

The Chinese state has chosen to target the Uyghur on the grounds of counterterrorism! Imagine, targeting an entire minority on the grounds of terrorism? This is a fact of state policy and any number of statements by President Xi Jinping assert to the links between the Uyghur and terrorism. This line of thought is even reflected in Chinese academic literature. For instance, Liao Zhaoyu, Dean, Institute of Frontier History and Geography at Xinjiang’s Tarim University, argues that Xinjiang’s terrorism problem is a direct result of high Uyghur population concentrations in southern Xinjiang. Further, to the Chinese state the foundation for solving Xinjiang’s counterterrorism is “to solve the human problem”. There could not be a more chilling commentary on how China proposes to solve the problem of the Uyghur!

There have also been reports by organizations like the Australian Strategic Policy Institute which tell us that Chinese authorities have intentionally moved people from the mainstream Han Chinese population into parts of Xinjiang previously dominated by ethnic minorities and forcibly transferred Uyghurs out to other parts of China to work in factories as bonded labour. Reuters said it had shared Adrian Zenz’s new research and methodology with more than a dozen experts in population analysis, birth prevention policies and international human rights law, who told the news agency the analysis and conclusions were sound.

That the Uyghur face challenges at home is a given, but that they face the same Chinese state and its tentacles overseas has also become clear recently. Dozens of reports have recently emerged which detail the alleged detention and deportation of Uyghur Muslims at China’s request in three major countries, i.e., Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, raising concerns of Beijing’s growing reach in foreign nations. In Egypt, rights groups have documented hundreds of detentions of Uyghur and at least twenty deportations in 2017. Between 2018 and 2020, at least one Uyghur Muslim in Saudi Arabia was allegedly detained and deported after performing the Umrah pilgrimage in the country’s holiest cities. Rights activists are also concerned that countries in the Middle East and beyond will increasingly be willing to acquiesce to China’s crackdown on members of the ethnic group at home and abroad.

A Human Rights Watch report released in April said China had tracked down hundreds of Uyghurs across the globe, forcing them to return and face persecution. Over a dozen Muslim-majority countries in 2019, publicly have supported endorsed China’s policies in Xinjiang, including Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Following a visit to Xinjiang in 2020, the UAE’s ambassador to Beijing publicly praised China’s policies in the province. The scale of surveillance and monitoring of Uyghur families and their relatives abroad is scary and testifies to the grand “Chinese dream” spoken of by President Xi. This dream is to create a Han nation, where no ethnic minority can claim to live on its own terms in a country, where the Communist Party celebrated its 100th anniversary on 1 July.

Thus, these findings shed important new light on China’s intention to physically destroy in part the Uyghur ethnic group by preventing births within the group. The prevention of births is a critical and necessary part of China’s overall “optimisation” policy in Xinjiang, a policy ironically considered to be a matter of national security.