Authorities Begin New Incentive Initiative To Continue Population Control in Xinjiang

December 11, 2009

The central government has launched a series of initiatives in the far-western region of Xinjiang to strengthen the region's population control work, including through monetary rewards to residents in designated areas who have fewer births than allowed under the region's population planning requirements. The reward program, started in fall 2009 and mainly directed at ethnic minorities, is part of broader efforts throughout China to control population growth using both punitive measures and incentives to promote compliance. Citizens who expose abuses in official implementation of population planning policies have faced repercussions including harassment and detention, as a recent case from Xinjiang illustrates.

New Initiative in Xinjiang Rewards Fewer Births, Focuses on Ethnic Minorities

The central government has launched a series of initiatives in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) to strengthen the region's population control work, including through monetary incentives for families who have fewer children than allowed under the region's population planning requirements, according to Chinese government and media reports. On October 31, the National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC) signed an agreement with the XUAR government to launch the initiatives, including "special rewards" (teshu jiangli) for families in 26 poor and border counties who have fewer children, according to a November 6 report from the NPFPC (via the State Ethnic Affairs Commission Web site). According to a November 2 Xinhua article, the new reward policy mainly targets rural ethnic minority households who already have two children and have "been certified" (lingzheng) as voluntarily forgoing a third birth [shengyu liang tai hou zhudong fanqi di san tai]. Under Article 15 of the XUAR's Regulation on Population and Family Planning, rural ethnic minority families are permitted to have a maximum of three children. The Xinhua report does not indicate how households prove that they will not have a third child. Some local governments elsewhere in China have launched incentive programs that reward couples who voluntarily undergo sterilization or abortion procedures, and policies launched in previous years also have rewarded certain couples beyond childbearing age (see below). The families in the XUAR who forgo a third birth will receive 3,000 yuan (US$439) as a one-time payment, and each member of the couple will receive an annual payment of 720 yuan (US$105) starting the following year. Under the latest initiatives, authorities also will continue a reward policy already in place in three southern XUAR districts (see a February 3 Xinhua report for more details), provide services including free prenatal health screenings for "better births" in the southern XUAR, and arrange yearly technology training and training for grassroots cadres, according to the NPFPC article. Authorities also will continue "preferential policies" in the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC or bingtuan), an apparent reference to policies there that also reward fewer births. (See, e.g., a May 4 Bingtuan News Net article describing a preferential policy to reward households with one child.)

The recent initiatives build on previous efforts in the XUAR to control population growth by targeting communities designated as ethnic minorities and by focusing on programs that reward fewer births. As noted in the Congressional-Executive Commission on China 2009 Annual Report, earlier in 2009, authorities stressed strengthening population planning in southern XUAR, which is a predominantly non-Han area, and central and XUAR authorities pledged to increase investment in 2009 to meet the population control targets mandated by the central government. In 2008, the government reported that the XUAR had achieved 65,000 fewer births in 2007 under policies of providing rewards to families who had fewer children than legally permitted, as reported in the CECC 2008 Annual Report. A 2006 Xinhua article reported that the XUAR's population planning policy had taken the "first steps" in moving from "emphasis on punishing multiple births" to "emphasis on encouraging and rewarding fewer births." Since first beginning reward policies in the XUAR in 2006, the number of "certified families" who have given birth to fewer children has increased, according to the November 2 Xinhua report, including 109,000 households in the first nine months of 2009. In the XUAR and throughout China, however, authorities continue to enforce regulations that punish non-compliance with population planning requirements at the same they implement systems to reward fewer births. See below and see Section II—Population Planning in the CECC 2009 Annual Report for additional information.

Citizens Who Expose Abuses Face Repercussions, Uyghur Man Detained

Citizens who expose abuses in official implementation of population planning policies have faced repercussions including harassment and detention, as a recent case from the XUAR illustrates. On July 2, authorities in Yining (Ghulja), Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, within the XUAR, detained Tursunjan Hesen, a 67-year-old Uyghur man, for reportedly revealing state secrets and endangering state security, according to a village head and neighbor cited in an October 30 Radio Free Asia article. Tursunjan Hesen had given interviews to overseas media about a case involving his daughter, Arzigul Tursun, according to the article. In 2008, authorities had planned to subject her to a forced abortion while she was six months pregnant with her third child, but canceled the plans following international advocacy on her behalf. An official had said Arzigul Tursun "should undergo an abortion" because she violated population planning requirements by becoming pregnant with a third child. As noted, rural ethnic minority couples may give birth to three children, but under the XUAR Regulation on Population and Family Planning, urban ethnic minority couples are permitted to give birth to two children, and where one member of the couple is an urban resident—as was the case in Arzigul Tursun's marriage—urban birth limits apply. The official's statement calling for an abortion, however, has no basis under XUAR population planning regulations. Although those in violation of the policy are required to pay "social compensation fees," there is no stipulation that pregnancies must be terminated if the fee cannot be paid. Both national law and XUAR legal regulations provide sanctions for government officials who infringe on citizens' rights or abuse their power in carrying out population planning requirements, but it is unclear if local authorities faced penalties for their plans to subject Arzigul Tursun to a forced abortion.

Xinjiang Initiative Part of Population Planning Controls Throughout China

Central and local authorities throughout China continue to strictly control the reproductive lives of women in China through an all-encompassing system of family planning regulations in which the state is directly involved in the reproductive decisions of its citizens. As noted in Section II—Population Planning in the CECC 2009 and 2008 Annual Reports, violators of population planning policy are routinely punished with fines, and in some cases, subject to forced sterilization, forced abortion, arbitrary detention, and torture. In addition to punishing non-compliance with population planning requirements, some local governments offer monetary incentives and other benefits to couples who voluntarily undergo sterilization or abortion procedures. Authorities also have provided financial rewards under other circumstances (see, e.g., the CECC 2005 Annual Report and a previous CECC analysis). The utilization of financial incentives reflects an emerging national pattern, but thus far incentives for compliance have only been implemented in addition to, rather than in place of, longstanding coercive measures. Additionally, many provinces connect job promotion with an official's ability to meet or exceed population planning targets, thus providing a powerful incentive for officials to use coercive measures in order to meet population goals.

Population Planning Policy Violates International Standards

China’s population planning policies in both their nature and implementation violate international human rights standards, as described in the 2009 Annual Report. Although implementation tends to vary across localities, the government’s population planning law and regulations contravene international human rights standards by limiting the number of children that women may bear and by coercing compliance with population targets through heavy fines. For example, the PRC Population and Family Planning Law is not consistent with the standards set by the 1995 Beijing Declaration and the 1994 Programme of Action of the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development. Controls imposed on Chinese women and their families and additional abuses engendered by the system, from forced abortion to discriminatory policies against "out-of-plan" children whose births were not authorized, also violate standards in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, all of which the Chinese government has ratified.

For more information on conditions in the XUAR and on population planning policy, see Section II—Population Planning and Section IV—Xinjiang, in the CECC 2009 Annual Report.