Beijing denied on Monday it has imposed coercive birth control measures on Muslim minority women.
The denial follows outcry over a tweet by the Chinese embassy in Washington claiming that Beijing’s polices had freed women of the Muslim Uighur ethnic group from being “baby-making machines”.
Xu Guixiang, a spokesman for the Xinjiang regional government, told reporters on Monday that birth control decisions are made of the person’s own free will and that “no organisation or individual can interfere”, the AP reports.
“The growth rate of the Uighur population is not only higher than that of the whole Xinjiang population, but also higher than that of the minority population, and more significantly higher than that of the Chinese majority Han population,” Xu said.
Monday’s news conference was the latest attempt by Beijing to deflect rising international criticism over its policies in Xinjiang, particularly over alleged forced labour and the detention of more than one million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other minorities in prison-like centres for political indoctrination.
Beijing says the centres are intended to combat extremism and teach job skills, but former inmates and rights groups say they target Islam.
An Associated Press investigation in June found that the Chinese government was forcing birth control measures including IUD fittings, contraceptives, and even abortions and sterilisations on Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
The measures are backed by the threat of detention. Parents with three or more children are relocated to camps if they’re unable to pay large fines.
As a result, the birth rate in Xinjiang’s minority regions plummeted by over 60% in just three years, just as Beijing eases birth restrictions on the Han Chinese population.
Twitter took down the Chinese embassy’s tweet following protests by groups that accuse Beijing of seeking to eradicate Uighur culture. They complained the tweet was a violation of rules set by Twitter, which is blocked in China along with Facebook and other US social media platforms.
Nihad Awad, executive director of The Council on American-Islamic Relations, said, “China’s fascist government is now openly admitting and celebrating its use of concentration camps, forced labour, forced sterilisations and abortions, and other forms of torture to eliminate an ethnic and religious minority.”