New Son for Uyghur Woman

A Uyghur woman in China whose pregnancy drew international attention has given birth to a son.

2009-02-13
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kashgar-305.jpg An ethnic Uyghur family in Kashgar, Aug. 6, 2008.
AFP

HONG KONG—An ethnic Uyghur woman in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region who avoided a forced abortion after her case drew international attention has given birth to a son, according to her father.

Hasan Tursunjan said his daughter, Arzigul Tursun, gave birth Feb. 9 to a healthy son weighing three kg at Dadamtu Village Hospital in Gulja [in Chinese, Yining].

But Tursunjan said the child was taken shortly after delivery to the Women and Children’s Welfare Hospital in Ili prefecture, the same hospital where Arzigul was held when scheduled by family planning officials for a forced abortion in November.

"The second day after the baby was born, the prefectural hospital took our child and only returned him after three days," Tursunjan said.

"The prefectural hospital ordered the village hospital to bring the child. They said he didn't have enough sustenance because Arzigul’s stomach was empty when she gave birth," he said.

"When I heard this, I got into an argument with my son-in-law. 'Why should you give your child to the prefectural hospital?’ I asked him. Now I’m not sure if this was some kind of trick or not. Why would the hospital take him, especially without either of the parents along?" he said.

Police intervention

Tursunjan said local police have kept the family under surveillance, even forbidding them from naming the child according to their wishes.

"Originally we tried to name him Koresh [struggle], but the village police bureau told my son-in-law that he could not name him that. That’s why we named him Umid [hope]," he said.

Police have been wary of the family since Tursun’s planned abortion, scheduled because her pregnancy was in violation of China's aggressive population-control policy, prompted intervention from two members of the U.S. Congress and the U.S. ambassador in Beijing, he said.

Local authorities couldn't be reached to comment.

Police tracked down Arzigul Tursun, six months pregnant with her third child, in November at a private home after she fled Gulja's municipal Water Gate Hospital.

She had been held there by family planning authorities who planned to force her to abort the child. She was released after her case drew international attention.

China's one-child-per-family policy applies mainly to majority Han Chinese and allows ethnic minorities, including Uyghurs, to have additional children.

Detailed policy

According to China’s official Xinhua news agency, Uyghurs in the countryside are permitted three children while city-dwellers may have two.

Under “special circumstances,” rural families are permitted one more child, although what constitutes special circumstances was unclear.

And while Tursun is a rural peasant, her husband is from the city of Gulja, so their status is ambiguous.

The government also uses financial incentives and disincentives to keep the birthrate low.

Couples can pay steep fines to have more children, though the fines are beyond most people's means.

The official Web site China Xinjiang Web reports that in Kashgar, Hotan, and Kizilsu—areas populated almost entirely by Uyghurs—women over 49 with only one child are entitled to a one-time payment of 3,000 yuan (U.S. $440), with the couple receiving 600 yuan (U.S. $88) yearly afterward.

China's official Tianshan Net reported that population control policies in Xinjiang have prevented the births of some 3.7 million people over the last 30 years.

The one-child policy is enforced more strictly in cities, but penalties for exceeding a family's quota can be severe, including job loss, demotion, or expulsion from the Party, experts say.

Officials at all levels are subject to rewards or penalties based on whether they meet population targets set by their administrative region.

Citizens are legally entitled to sue officials who they believe have overstepped their authority in enforcing the policy.

Tense relations

Relations between Chinese authorities and the predominantly Muslim Uyghur population in Xinjiang have a long and tense history, with many Uyghurs objecting in particular to the mass immigration of Han Chinese to the region and to Beijing’s population-control policy.

Uyghurs formed two short-lived East Turkestan republics in the 1930s and 40s during the Chinese civil war and the Japanese invasion.

But China subsequently took control of the region, and Beijing has in recent years launched a campaign against Uyghur separatism, which it calls a war on Islamic terrorism.

Beijing has also accused “hostile forces” in the West of fomenting unrest in the strategically important and resource-rich region, which borders several countries in Central Asia.

Original reporting in Uyghur by Shohret Hoshur. Uyghur service director: Dolkun Kamberi. Translated by Dolkun Kamberi. Written and produced in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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