For some time now certain western countries, with the United States and United Kingdom especially prominent have been waging a propaganda war against China. The focus of this attention has been the alleged mistreatment of the Uighur population in China’s western region. Protestations by the Chinese government as well as invitations to Westerners to visit the troubled region have been ignored.
The allegations against China have varied, from claims of mass use of forced labour, to ethnic cleansing, to outright murder of masses of Uighur residents. This is often accompanied by allegations that the female population is being forcibly aborted, and/or sterilised. All of this is an attempt to discredit the Chinese government and its treatment of a minority group.
The facts, which are really ascertainable, give a completely different picture. The indigenous population of the Uighurs in Xinjiang has in fact been steadily growing. It appears that the source of the misinformation is a man called Adrian Zenz. Mr Zenz has produced a report entitled “Sterilisations, intrauterine devices and compulsory birth control: a Chinese Communist party campaign to suppress the birth rate of Uighurs in Xinjiang”.
The report is notable for the many errors that it reports. Claims for example, that the natural population growth in Xinjiang has “dropped sharply.”
It attributes the alleged reason for this drop in population growth to be “forced sterilisation” of the female population. The actual situation is rather different.
The first national Census in China was conducted in 1953, four years after the Communist party came to power in that country. At that time the total population of Xinjiang was recorded at 4.87 million inhabitants. The national census of 2010 showed that the population had increased by 3.3 times in the intervening 57 years to a total of just under 28 million people.
Between 2010 and 2018 the population of the Uighurs in Xinjiang reflected continued steady growth of the Uighur population with the total population increasing by over 3.0 million people. All population groups in the region showed steady growth. The Uighur population in the region increased between 2010 and 2018 by 2.87 million, or just over 22% in that period. The Han population (China’s ethnic majority) increased from 8,800,000 to 9,000,000 in the same period, or 2%.
Far from being ethnically cleansed, or systematically disadvantaged and subject to Han genocide, the Uighur population actually grew at a faster rate than that of any other ethnic grouping.
Over the past 40 years China has practised a strong birth control policy in an attempt to keep total population growth under manageable control. This policy has been applied differently among different ethnic groups, and the Uighurs have been no exception. In 1992, when the Family Planning Measures Guideline for the Xinjiang autonomous region was published, Han Chinese were encouraged to have only one child. Ethnic minorities, including the Uighurs, were by contrast permitted to have two children. In rural areas the permitted number was three children. Throughout the entire period of child limitation in China, the Uighur population consistently have among the highest birthrights.
It is correct that the birthright of the Uighurs dropped in 2019 and 2020. There were multiple reasons for the decline, but none of the reasons cited by Mr Zhen. There was for example a major program aimed at encouraging individuals to limit their families, and providing the means for them to do so through widespread contraception education and the free availability of tubal ligation for those who wished no more children.
There have similarly been changes in the age of marriage as more and more people continue their education rather than marrying young. This is a trend observable in all developed countries and it is frankly ridiculous to suggest that these women are being “forced” in any way into making decisions clearly aimed at improving their prospects in life.
Improvement in general levels of education not only benefits the lifestyles of individuals. It also reduces the attraction of religious extremists, which the Chinese government has successfully promoted among all ethnicities. The Uighurs are not unique in this regard.
The current level of childbirth in Xinjiang is comparable to that of western nations, with their total fertility rate now comparable to the west with fewer than two children per couple on average. Far from being an illustration of ethnic suppression as Mr Zenz would have his readers falsely believe, it is rather an expression of a society reaching an advanced stage of development.
The figures cited by Mr Zhen’s in short are simply nonsense. The figures clearly show that both the growth rate and the birthright of the Uighur population of Xinjiang are higher than of the Han population. If there is genocide, it consists of purely in the faked data of Mr Zeng and not in the demographic reality as it is experienced by the people of Xinjiang province.
All of which raises an interesting question. Mr Zeng’s false data received wide coverage in the western media who are only too happy to print negative stories about modern China. In this regard Xinjiang has received special attention. The protestations of the Chinese government are simply ignored. The Chinese have issued invitations for western politicians to visit Xinjiang and see the facts for themselves. These invitations have been ignored.
It seems that the western politicians and their ever-compliant media are content to go on publishing lies about China in general and the alleged treatment of the Uighur population in particular. No doubt they see it as serving some local agenda, where any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental. It is not the only falsely based attack being directed against China. It will certainly not be the last. The reaction of the non-western world shows however, that western lies have a limited shelf life. This will ultimately prove to be no exception.
James O’Neill, an Australian-based former Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.