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US State Department accusation of China ‘genocide’ relied on data abuse and baseless claims by far-right ideologue

The Trump and Biden administrations have relied on the work of a right-wing religious extremist, Adrian Zenz, for their “genocide” accusation against China. A close review of Zenz’s research reveals flagrant data abuse and outright falsehoods.
 
by Gareth Porter and Max Blumenthal

Part 2 - Genocide or equal treatment in family planning policy?

In Adrian Zenz’s 2020 paper for the Jamestown Foundation, he boasted that his findings “provide the strongest evidence yet that Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang meet one of the genocide criteria cited in the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Zenz was referring Article 2 (d) of that Convention: “Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.” But Article II qualifies the relevant acts as those “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.

But “preventing births” by itself cannot be evidence of alleged genocide without evidence of intent to destroy the group in question. Otherwise, any birth control program provided to an ethnic group would be prima facie evidence of a policy of genocide against the group.

Zenz argued that population control measures applied to Uyghurs could be branded as “genocidal” because population growth rates fell by 84 percent in the two largest Uyghur prefectures between 2015 and 2018, and declined further in several minority regions in 2019. But more complete statistics that Zenz cited in his report, and data that he conveniently omitted, contradicted his conclusion.

Zenz provided statistics revealing that between 2005 and 2015, Uyghur population growth in Xinjiang was 2.6 times higher than that of Han Chinese in the Xinjiang region.

Both official Chinese figures and Zenz agree that the Uyghur population in Xinjiang increased significantly between 2010 and 2018.

Zenz’s figures shows an increase in Uyghur population from 10.1 million to 11.8 million during the 2010 and 2018, while Chinese government figures demonstrate an even larger increase from 10.1 to 12.7 million. That means the Uyghur population in Xinjiang grew by a staggering 25.04 percent.

Zenz shows the Han Chinese population rising from 8.5 to 9.8 million during the eight-year period, while Chinese government figures show a smaller increase in Han population from 8.8 million to 9 million.

Both the rapid surge in Uyghur population growth rates and the increased margin of the Uyghur majority over the Han population of Xinjiang in recent years are the result of the one-child policy imposed on Han Chinese couples by the Chinese government in 1979.

According to China specialist Martin King Whyte, the one-child policy was accompanied by a long-term pattern of abuses in its implementation, including “intrusive menstrual monitoring, coerced sterilizations and abortions, staggering monetary fines for ‘over-quota’ births, smashing of furniture and housing of those who resist and withholding registration for babies born outside the plan.

Uyghur families, however, were exempted from the one child policy. Urban Uyghur couples were allowed to have two children, and rural Uyghur couples three. In practice, moreover, rural Uyghurs often had large families, with as many as nine or ten children in some cases, as even Zenz acknowledged.  

In 2015, the Chinese government announced a relaxation of the decades-long one-child limit on urban Han couples, allowing urban couples to have two children and rural families to have three. In Xinjiang, where birthrates routinely exceeded previously established limits, local officials urged the equal application of family planning policy between Han and Uyghur couples.

In July 2017, Xinjiang’s regional government ended the exemption on the old child limits for Uyghurs. Uyghur couples were thus expected to follow the same limitations recently imposed on Han couples: two children in urban areas and three in rural regions.

As the Chinese government has freely acknowledged, a 5 percent decrease in the birth rate in Xinjiang between 2017 and 2018 was the result of the equal enforcement of family planning policy across ethnic lines.

While eliding this point, Zenz also overlooked the fact that China’s overall birthrate has fallen precipitously in recent years across the demographic spectrum as the population ages and contraceptives become more widely available through programs like the government’s annual free distribution of one billion condoms. For example, in the city of Guangzhou, which is far from Xinjiang, the rate of newborn babies has plunged to its lowest point in a decade.

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