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‘Horrifying beyond words’: China embassy tweet on Uighur women rebuked online

A tweet from Beijing's embassy in the US saying detained Uighur women were now 'emancipated' condemned as misrepresenting ‘genocide' and ‘forced sterilisation’
A demonstrator wears a mask painted with the colours of the East Turkestan flag and a hand bearing the colours of the Chinese flag in a protest against China's treatment of Uighur Muslims, Istanbul, 5 July 2018 (AFP)

A tweet from the Chinese embassy in the US on Thursday claiming that Uighur Muslim women held in internment camps in the Xinjiang province of China had been "emancipated" and were "no longer baby-making machines" has been widely criticised online. 

“Studies show that in the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uygur (sic) women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines. They are more confident and independent," the tweet read

Over 18,000 people have responded to the tweet, with many demanding that the social media platform remove it or alert users that the information linked in the tweet should be fact-checked.

Thousands used the tweet to highlight reports of forced labour, sterilisations and organ-harvesting that have taken place in internment camps, where the Chinese government is holding members of the minority Muslim community.

The news article linked in the embassy's tweet quotes a report conducted by the Xinjiang Development Research Centre, which claims that the "eradication of extremism" has given Uighur women more autonomy when deciding whether to have children. 

The article denied that the decrease in birth rate and natural population growth was due to forced sterilisation.

A number of news reports have recorded evidence of forced sterilisations in Xinjiang. Last year, a Uighur teacher told the Guardian newspaper that she had been coerced into being sterilised under a government campaign to suppress birth rates of women from Muslim minorities. 

“In 2017, just because I was an official worker in a school, they gave me a wider choice to have this IUD or sterilisation operation. But in 2019, they said there is an order from the government that every woman from 18 years to 59-years-old has to be sterilised,” Qelbinur Sidik told the Guardian. 

Online, many have reacted with shock at the tweet, calling the misinformation "horrifying". 

Reports suggest that around one million Uighurs have been detained over the past few years, in what the Chinese government has called "re-education camps", which it argues are a necessary measure against "terrorism". 

Uighurs showing adherence to Islamic principles - including praying, fasting, abstaining from alcohol, growing a beard or wearing Islamic clothing - have been detained by authorities and forced to comply with Communist Party principles. Many have called for Muslim world leaders to react and demand accountability. 

Last year, an AP investigation found that a "climate of terror" was being created around having children, as Uighurs reported being threatened with being locked up in internment camps for having too many offspring.

The investigation also found that an unprecedented and dramatic drop in birth rates had taken place, transforming the population of the Xinjiang province from one of China's fastest-growing regions to its slowest. Evidence shows that hefty fines were also put in place for violating family planning laws. 

Another report, by China scholar Adrian Zenz, revealed that former detainees in internment camps in Xinjiang said they were given injections that stopped their periods, or caused bleeding which was consistent with the effects of taking birth control. 

Many - including Canadian senator Leo Housakos - have taken to social media to demand that the international community takes action. 

A damning investigation carried out by BuzzFeed last year, based on government records, interviews and aerial images, also revealed that factories were being built in Xinjiang's internment compounds, in which Muslim detainees were used as forced labour. 

Uighurs residing in the Middle East have previously expressed concern over being deported back to China, where they say they could be detained and persecuted.