Uyghur women in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) who are forced by authorities to undergo birth control procedures are rarely informed about their side effects. They often experience lifelong health complications believed to be related to the surgeries.
A number of Uyghur women who were required to have intrauterine devices (IUDs) implanted or undergo tubal ligation surgeries as part of family planning policies detailed their experiences to RFA’s Uyghur Service.
The women claimed in the their recent interviews that painful procedures left them both physically and emotionally scarred, and suggested such measures are part of a bid by the government to eradicate their ethnic group.
Their stories follow a June 29 report by German researcher Adrian Zenz in collaboration with the Associated Press, about a dramatic increase in the number of forced sterilizations and abortions targeting Uyghurs in the region in recent years, which he said may amount to a government-led campaign of genocide under United Nations definitions.
Zenz report suggested such measures are part of a bid by the government to eradicate their ethnic group.
The population control measures include fines on Uyghur women with three or more children, mandatory pregnancy tests and examinations, and the forced implantation of IUDs or sterilization surgery, according to Zenz, a senior fellow in China Studies at the Washington-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
China did not make a spokesperson available for comment on this report, but when Zenz’s study on forced birth control came out in June, official media vilified him and said Beijing is ‘considering suing’ him for libel, while the foreign ministry denounced him.
“The so-called allegation that ‘millions of Uyghurs were detained’ was trumped up by an anti-China organization which receives significant financial support from the National Endowment for Democracy, and Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow in a research group on Xinjiang education and training centers set up by the US intelligence community,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on July 15.
The uptick in forced population control policies, which the report said had led to an 84% birthrate reduction in two majority Uyghur prefectures between 2015 and 2018, occurred in tandem with China’s campaign of mass incarceration of Uyghurs launched in the region in April 2017.
Women who refuse to undergo the procedures are detained in a network of internment camps, believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.
Recently, a source who asked not to be named out of fear of reprisal sent RFA photos of an IUD that had been surgically removed from her uterus 10 years after it was implanted because she experienced severe vaginal bleeding. The woman said she had been detained at a camp but was released after the bleeding became very serious.
According to the source, doctors performed a four-and-a-half-hour surgery to remove the device and discovered that it had punctured her uterus, causing an injury they said would likely leave her sterile.
A similar story was related by camp survivor Zumret Dawut, who last year testified about having undergone a permanent sterilization surgery at a United Nations event titled “The Human Rights Crisis in Xinjiang,” which was organized by the U.S. Department of State.
Dawut, mother of three, told RFA that she was fitted several times with an IUD, which she described as T-shaped and wrapped with a wire.
“I’ve had several IUDs, but the experiences weren’t good,” she said.
“They caused a lot of problems for me. I passed out, lost consciousness, several times after the insertions.”
While China’s methods of birth control in the XUAR have received increased attention following the release of Zenz’s report, they are by no means recent developments.
In 2007, for example, family-planning offices in Xinjiang held a propaganda “competition” by the name of “Birth less, get richer faster,” in which they rewarded women who had fewer than three children or who elected to have tubal ligation surgeries performed. (Source: RFA)