A 137-page document detailing China’s systematic repression of Uyghur and other minority Muslims in western Xinjiang province listed that the top reason for sending Muslims to concentration camps in one county as “having too many babies,” Deutsche Welle revealed on Monday.
Deutsche Welle, in cooperation with other media outlets, translated the leaked government documents, which it noted added clarity in how the Chinese communist regime chooses who to institutionalize in the over 1,000 concentration camps built to torture, enslave, rape, and kill Muslim minorities. Reports citing eyewitnesses and document leaks have for years exposed a system that punishes Chinese citizens in Xinjiang for wearing beards, refusing to eat pork, keeping fasting hours during Ramadan, or wearing hijabs. In 2017, China also published a list of banned names for children in Xinjiang, most of them traditional Islamic names common among Uyghurs.
The Deutsche Welle documents listed individuals in Xinjiang’s Karakax County, many of them in concentration camps, but others simply being monitored incessantly through advanced surveillance technology and espionage via private messaging services and social media. The document lists contact with people in Muslim-majority countries, applying for a passport, and other legal activities as red flags in the eyes of the Communist Party that could result in imprisonment in a concentration camp.
“However, the top cause for arrest of Uighurs from Karakax County was violating China’s official birth control policy by having too many babies,” Deutsche Welle reported.
The Communist Party bans all people from having more than two children, an expansion of the long-time one-child policy that has triggered a population crisis in the country. In rural areas, Beijing has exempt religious and ethnic minorities from that limit for years; Uyghurs are allowed three children if they live outside of urban centers. The one-child policy exemptions have resulted in Chinese minorities being among the few not currently in danger of seeing population crashes that could devastate the economy in the next two generations.
Adding to mounting evidence that the concentration camps are part of a broader genocide campaign against Uyghur Muslims, the Karakax County documents show Chinese officials punishing Uyghurs for having large families. Most of those locked into concentration camps, the documents indicate, are young men, both for allegedly violating birth laws and for crimes like being “untrustworthy.”
“This has major implications for demographics and the birth rate,” Rian Thum, a University of Nottingham Uyghur policy expert, said. “If you take a portion — or even the entirety — of a village’s youth, you basically put a pause” on population growth.
Survivors of the concentration camps and human rights groups have accused China of a genocide campaign against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslim ethnic minorities in the west of the country. In addition to making the building of families more difficult, Chinese officials have razed dozens of Muslim cemeteries, many of them with hundreds of years of family history. Chinese officials have claimed that destroying ancient historical sites like cemeteries is necessary to make Uyghurs more “civilized.”
Within the camps, women who have escaped say the Chinese government has forcibly sterilized them, forced them to abort if they are imprisoned while pregnant, and killed their babies. One woman who entered a concentration camp with triplets – imprisoned for traveling to Egypt – said Chinese authorities killed one of her triplets and later claimed he died spontaneously. Another woman said she was sterilized without her consent, or even being told what was happening to her.
Ruqiye Perhat, another survivor, said that “any woman or man under age 35 was raped and sexually abused,” often in front of other prisoners. The rape naturally resulted in pregnancies that Chinese authorities killed.
The Communist Party insists that the camps are necessary “vocational training centers” to keep Muslims from veering into radical terrorist activities. Multiple estimates from American government officials and others suggest that as many as 3 million people are languishing in the camps. In December, Beijing proclaimed that most of them had “graduated,” a euphemism meant to emphasize the claim that the prisoners are learning important job skills in prison. In reality, those who have escaped say that they were forced to memorize Communist Party propaganda and worship dictator Xi Jinping.
The documented published this week, however, show that a small minority of those imprisoned are taken in for that reason, however. Of the 311 people whose every moment Chinese communist officials documented in Karakax, only three were listed as potential jihadists.
The documents also make repeated references to the use of slavery in the camps. China has repeatedly denied the use of slave labor to manufacture products in Xinjiang, despite compelling evidence that products, many even sold in the United States, were manufactured inside camps. The documents show that, privately, the Chinese government does not maintain that conceit.
Karakax is home to four of the over 1,000 concentration camps in Xinjiang.