Uyghur people (file photo) Photograph:( Agencies )
The report, shared exclusively with Reuters ahead of publication, also includes a previously unreported cache of research produced by Chinese academics and officials on Beijing’s intent behind the birth control policies in Xinjiang, where official data shows birth-rates have already dropped by 48.7% between 2017 and 2019
Chinese birth control policies could cut between 2.6 to 4.5 million births of the Uyghur and other ethnic minorities in southern Xinjiang within 20 years, up to a third of the region’s projected minority population, according to a new analysis by a German researcher.
The report, shared exclusively with Reuters ahead of publication, also includes a previously unreported cache of research produced by Chinese academics and officials on Beijing’s intent behind the birth control policies in Xinjiang, where official data shows birth-rates have already dropped by 48.7% between 2017 and 2019.
Adrian Zenz’s research comes amid growing calls among some western countries for an investigation into whether China’s actions in Xinjiang amount to genocide, a charge Beijing vehemently denies.
The research by Zenz is the first such peer reviewed analysis of the long-term population impact of Beijing’s multi-year crackdown in the western region. Rights groups, researchers and some residents say the policies include newly enforced birth limits on Uyghur and other mainly Muslim ethnic minorities, the transfers of workers to other regions and the internment of an estimated one million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in a network of camps.
"This (research and analysis) really shows the intent behind the Chinese government’s long-term plan for the Uyghur population,” Zenz told Reuters.
The Chinese government has not made public any official target for reducing the proportion of Uyghur and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. But based on analysis of official birth data, demographic projections and ethnic ratios proposed by Chinese academics and officials, Zenz estimates Beijing’s policies could increase the predominant Han Chinese population in southern Xinjiang to around 25% from 8.4% currently.
"This goal is only achievable if they do what they have been doing, which is drastically suppressing (Uyghur) birth rates,” Zenz said.
China has previously said the current drop in ethnic minority birth rates is due to the full implementation of the region’s existing birth quotas as well as development factors, including an increase in per capita income and wider access to family planning services.
"The so-called ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang is pure nonsense,” China’s Foreign Ministry told Reuters in a statement. "It is a manifestation of the ulterior motives of anti-China forces in the United States and the West and the manifestation of those who suffer from Sinophobia."
Official data showing the decrease in Xinjiang birth rates between 2017 and 2019 “does not reflect the true situation” and Uyghur birth rates remain higher than Han ethnic people in Xinjiang, the ministry added.
The new research compares a population projection done by Xinjiang-based researchers for the government-run Chinese Academy of Sciences based on data predating the crackdown, to official data on birth-rates and what Beijing describes as “population optimization” measures for Xinjiang’s ethnic minorities introduced since 2017.
It found the population of ethnic minorities in Uyghur-dominated southern Xinjiang would reach between 8.6-10.5 million by 2040 under the new birth prevention policies. That compares to 13.14 million projected by Chinese researchers using data pre-dating the implemented birth policies and a current population of around 9.47 million.
Zenz, an independent researcher with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, a bipartisan non-profit based in Washington, DC, has previously been condemned by Beijing for his research which has been critical of China’s policies on detaining Uyghurs, mass labour transfers and birth reduction in Xinjiang.
China’s foreign ministry has accused Zenz of 'misleading' people with data and, in response to Reuters’ questions, said, “his lies aren’t worth refuting.”
Zenz’s research was accepted for publication by the Central Asian Survey, a quarterly academic journal, after peer review on June 3.
Reuters shared the research and methodology with more than a dozen experts in population analysis, birth prevention policies and international human rights law, who said the analysis and conclusions were sound.
Some of the experts cautioned that demographic projections over a period of decades can be affected by unforeseen factors. The Xinjiang government has not publicly set official ethnic quota or population size goals for ethnic populations in Southern Xinjiang, and quotas used in the analysis are based on proposed figures from Chinese officials and academics.