Four Uyghur women in China's troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang have been forced by authorities to undergo abortions—one of them nine months into her pregnancy—under Beijing's brutally-enforced one-child policy, local officials and parents said.
They were among six forced abortions that had been planned over the last week in Hotan prefecture in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, home to some 10 million mostly Muslim Uyghurs who say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination and oppressive religious controls under Beijing’s policies.
"We had planned to perform forced abortions on six women. Four of them have already undergone the abortions," Eniver Momin, deputy chief of Hotan's Arish township where the mothers were injected with abortion-inducing drugs, told RFA's Uyghur Service.
"One more woman is waiting in hospital to undergo the abortion while another women has escaped before undergoing the process," Momin said.
He said that local authorities are considering whether to suspend performing forced abortions amid public concerns over the four cases.
Awat Han, head of the family planning department in Arish township, also confirmed with RFA that four forced abortions had been conducted over the last week, saying she was only following orders from the higher authorities bent on enforcing the controversial one-child policy introduced in the 1970's to curb population growth.
Under a new law passed last week, married couples in China will be permitted to have a second child if one spouse is an only child. Current regulations allow a second child in certain cases, including if both spouses are only children themselves.
As ethnic minorities, the Uyghurs are supposed to be exempt from the one-child policy.
Baby born alive and then dies
The depressed husband of one of the four women forced to undergo the abortions told RFA that his wife delivered their baby boy alive but he died an hour later.
Memettursun Kawul said they had been anxiously awaiting the birth of their son after having three daughters but township officials led by Awat Han had been forcing his wife to go to the hospital for an abortion since she was six months pregnant in November.
"We said that we were willing to pay a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 yuan [U.S. $8,250 to U.S. $16,500] but they refused," he said.
"In November, my wife and I left the township and hid in Hotan city in one of my relatives' house, but Awat Han came to the place with two village policemen last week and took her to the Nurluq Hospital in Arish Township," he said.
"My wife was injected by doctors at 11 p.m. on Wednesday and she gave birth at 5 p.m. the next day. My son was crying when he was born."
Kawul said he stormed into the delivery room when he heard the cries of his son and wife, grabbed the baby and took him to a nearby hospital in a bid to save him.
"The doctors in the hospital tried to save him but failed, citing the abortion drug that had already been injected. My son died an hour after he was born."
Kawul said that at the Nurluq Hospital, where his wife is now recovering, another Uyghur woman was awaiting a forced abortion, identifying her as Rozihan Memet and her husband as Metkurban Nuri.
Husband detained at police station
Metkurban Nuri, the husband of another Uyghur woman who was forced to abort her baby four months into her pregnancy, said he and his wife had been hiding in Hotan city for a week but local family planning officials located them on Saturday.
He said he was detained at Arish police station for 24 hours and forced to agree to allow his wife to undergo an abortion at the Nurluq Hospital.
The mostly Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang, which has seen a string of violent incidents in recent years, are supposed to be exempt from Beijing's one-child policy aimed largely at the majority Han Chinese, rights groups say.
"In reality, they [the Uyghurs] are subject to strict population control," said the U.S.-based Women's Rights Without Frontiers, an international coalition monitoring forced abortion, gendercide, and sexual slavery in China.
"If they live in the countryside, Uyghurs are allowed three children; in the city, they are allowed two," the group said. "Uyghurs who exceed this limit are subject to forced abortion, forced sterilization, and other coercive measures."
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA's Uyghur Service. Translated by Shohret Hoshur. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.