Ethnic Minority Population Planning Program Expands to More Areas in Xinjiang

June 3, 2011

Authorities in the far western region of Xinjiang have expanded a program that rewards ethnic minority couples for having fewer children than permitted under the region's regulation on population planning, now making the program applicable to all counties and cities in Xinjiang where rural ethnic minorities comprise 50 percent or more of the population. The region's regulation on population planning permits rural ethnic minority couples to have up to three children, and the reward program awards couples that forego this maximum number of permitted births. The expansion of the program builds on similar reward systems present throughout China, while intensifying a regional focus on ethnic minority households. In addition to rewarding families that have fewer births, authorities in the XUAR and elsewhere in China also continue to enforce penalties against people who have more children than permitted under population planning requirements.

The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) government has continued to expand a program of rewarding ethnic minority households that have fewer children than allowed under the region's regulation on population and family planning, building on initiatives throughout China to reward fewer births while intensifying a regional focus on ethnic minority households. Among various population planning reward programs in place in the region, a program in place since 2007 has rewarded rural ethnic minority couples that have fewer than the three children permitted under the XUAR Regulation on Population and Family Planning (Article 15), based on a description of the program posted September 4, 2008, on the Zepu (Poskam) county, Kashgar district, government Web site.

The reward program initially applied to three prefecture-level areas in the southern XUAR: Kashgar district, Aqsu district, and the Qizilsu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture, according to the description. In 2009, authorities expanded the program to 26 additional counties, mainly targeting rural ethnic minority households who already have two children and have "been certified" (lingzheng) as voluntarily foregoing a third birth [shengyu liang tai hou zhudong fangqi di san tai], according to information in a November 2, 2009, Xinhua report and a March 17, 2011, Tianshan Net report. (See also a previous Congressional-Executive Commission on China analysis for more information on the 2009 program expansion.) According to the 2011 Tianshan Net report, the program will now apply to all counties or cities where rural ethnic minorities comprise 50 percent or more of the population.

The expansion of the program builds on previous efforts in the XUAR to address population planning work among communities designated as ethnic minorities and to implement programs that reward fewer births. In 2006, the XUAR government reported a rate of population increase that was among the highest in China, noting a "relatively high" birth rate in minority areas as well as a fast growth rate among groups such as migrants. (See a CECC analysis and related January 24, 2006, Tianshan Net report for additional information.) The government reported that year that it would focus the region's population planning work on rural areas in the southern XUAR, which have predominantly ethnic minority populations. The government also pledged to keep the region's population within 22 million people by the end of 2010. According to information from China's 2010 national census, the region's population was 21.81 million by the end of October 2010, an increase of 0.11 percent from the 2000 census, according to an April 29, 2011, Xinhua article. (Nationwide, the population increased by an average 0.57 percent, according to another April 29, 2011, Xinhua article.) The region began pilot work in 2005 to "encourage and reward" compliance with population planning requirements and reported in 2006 on taking the "first steps" in moving from "emphasis on punishing multiple births" to "emphasis on encouraging and rewarding fewer births."

In the XUAR and throughout China, however, authorities continue to enforce regulations that punish non-compliance with population planning requirements, at the same time they implement systems to reward fewer births. (See Section II―Population Planning in the CECC 2010 Annual Report for additional information.) In addition, authorities also have imposed punishments that lack basis in law. In one case from the XUAR in 2008, authorities reportedly planned to require a woman in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture to undergo an abortion against her will for exceeding the number of permitted births under the XUAR Regulation on Population and Family Planning. Although those in violation of the regulation are required to pay "social compensation fees," there is no stipulation in the regulation 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―eventually canceled―to subject the woman to a forced abortion.

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 2010 Annual Report.