Researchers and activists slam an official tweet that points out how Chinese policies led to a decline in the minority population.
China announced via its US Embassy Twitter account yesterday that its “processes” made it so that Uighur women were no longer “baby-making machines.” The tweet was met with scorn and derision as researchers, academics, activists and average citizens alike accused the Chinese Communist Party of taking draconian measures including forced abortion, adoption, sterilisation, and IUDs, to curtail the Uighur population in China's Autonomous Xinjiang Region.
“China can't even hide its genocidal contempt for Uyghur Muslim women in dehumanizing them as ‘baby-making machines,’” said one user.
The Chinese government maintains that it is simply making "effective and appropriate contraceptive measures" available to Uighur families.
China can't even hide its genocidal contempt for Uyghur Muslim women in dehumanizing them as "baby making machines."— CJ Werleman (@cjwerleman) January 7, 2021
China has curtailed Uyghur population via forced family separations, forced adoptions, forced abortions, & forced sterilization programs!https://t.co/Ng1AqD4SWO
The embassy’s tweet linked to an article from the China Daily, an English-language newspaper that is owned by the government’s Publicity Department, which cited a single report from the Xinjiang Development Research Center, a think tank that is under the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. It is not a peer-reviewed journal.
According to the one report “extremism had incited people to resist family planning” and the drops in the Uighur population were not due to “forced sterilisation” but "emancipation."
Independent investigations by academics, researchers, journalists; as well as testimonials from survivors of these policies all over the world show different results.
Uighurs are a Muslim Turkic minority group, who predominantly live in northwest China. International human rights watchdogs say that Uighurs, along with other Muslim minorities in the region, like Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Uzbeks are victims of a “mass repression” and “mass detention” campaign by the Chinese state.
Beijing denies these reports, saying it is merely taking security measures to combat terrorism.
The tweet was slammed by thousands of Twitter users, many of whom label the practice ‘genocide’.
So basically, you were committing genocide and a crime against humanity pic.twitter.com/TwijMo8Te5— Amro Ali (@_amroali) January 7, 2021
Where have we heard this before? “Imposing measures intended to prevent births within” a “national, ethnic, radial, or religious group.” The definition of genocide in Art. II(d) of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. https://t.co/eqa4SJjxyw— Shawn Sullivan (@SullivanLawNet) January 7, 2021
Others called on Twitter to label the tweet with warnings or take it down. Many are wondering why Twitter has yet to take action on this tweet, as the platform’s hateful conduct policy states that any posts that “promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease,” are not allowed. This includes “references to mass murder, violent events, or specific means of violence where protected groups have been the primary targets or victims” as well as the “dehumanization of a group of people based on their religion”.
Uh, @jack, does this tweet promote violence? Because I'm pretty sure it promotes government-sponsored genocide. https://t.co/rms9OHglf6— Anthony L. Fisher (@anthonyLfisher) January 7, 2021
This is utterly disgraceful. @Twitter must immediately suspend the @ChineseEmbinUS for this sickening attempt to justify the genocide they (the CCP) are committing against the Uyghur people. https://t.co/X6UbKnjyRm— Ben Igielman (@BenIgielman) January 8, 2021
I reported this tweet as directing hate against a protected group. Why don't we see if we can get it flagged down? https://t.co/1XRuNn22Dz— Josh Barro (@jbarro) January 7, 2021
The tweet by the Chinese Embassy could also be flagged under Twitter’s policy on misleading information, where tweets with misleading information, disputed claims, or unverified claims can be labeled, include warning messages, or be removed. US President Donald Trump has been repeatedly censured for tweets in this regard and was altogether suspended from the platform.
Twitter has been under fire before for helping the Chinese government spread what has been called anti-Muslim propaganda and misinformation about Uighurs. It subsequently altered its policy on ads from state media.
However, as of the time this article was published, there were no such warnings or labels on the tweet. Several users posted that they reported it for its content.
“Forced family planning”
Since 1949, the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the government has undertaken a series of campaings in the Xinjiang region, including targeting what the state calls the “excessive” Uighur population, according to experts who research China and demography and who have examined official documents.
These efforts include, among other methods, trying to systematically (re)populate the Uighur-majority region with ethnic Han Chinese through settlement programs, and advertising marriage prospects to Uighur women. The government is also accused of coercing thousands of Uighur women to marry and/or live with Han men in what has been called a “mass rape” program according to other reports.
Family planning documents regarding the Xinjiang region started using statements like, “severely attack behaviours that violate family planning [policies]” as recently as 2017, according to research on the government’s family planning policies in the region. These included punishments for violations of these policies.
While sterilisations have been historically uncommon in Xinjiang region, the numbers are rising as Uighur women are offered “free” procedures and “threatened with internment” if they refuse, according to reports.
Meanwhile, the Chinese-published “Analysis Report on Population Change in Xinjiang," refutes these statements, attributing the decline of the Uighur Muslim population to the “eradication of religious extremism.”
Religious extremism isn’t defined in the article describing the report, but even having certain names, dressing in a certain way, and basic religious and cultural practices are deemed “extremist” by the government, and have been banned in recent years.
An AP investigation in 2020 found that Uighur women were subjected to forced, regular pregnancy checks, IUDs, sterilisation and abortion. “Even while the use of IUDs and sterilization has fallen nationwide, it is rising sharply in Xinjiang,” it said.
The investigation says population control measures are “backed by mass detention both as a threat and as a punishment. Having too many children is a major reason people are sent to detention camps...with the parents of three or more ripped away from their families unless they can pay huge fines. Police raid homes, terrifying parents as they search for hidden children”
Many women’s testimonials support the reports from human rights organisations and research institutes: "We lost a part of our body, we lost our identity as women. We will never be able to have children again," said Zumret Dawut, who spent 2 months in what are called internment camps by the international community. "They cut out one of our organs. It's gone."
The report, on the other hand, shows that the government “fully respects” women’s “personal decisions on whether to use” the “effective and appropriate contraceptive measures [that] are now available to couples of childbearing age in Xinjiang.”
Update: Twitter told Ars Technica, a website that covers tech news, that the Chinese Embassy tweet did not violate its policy against hateful conduct on January 8. Twitter appeared to reverse this decision on January 9, as the tweet is no longer visible. However, similar tweets referencing “population change” in the Xinjiang region remain on the platform.