Genocide is a crime under international law

Our civilization, as represented by the United Nations General Assembly from approximately December 9, 1948 to at least about January 12, 1951, agreed that “genocide […] is a crime under international law” and that such a crime includes “[i]mposing measures intended to prevent births within” “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” “with intent to destroy” said group.

Today, The Associated Press reports “[t]he Chinese government is taking draconian measures to slash birth rates among Uighurs and other minorities as part of a sweeping campaign to curb its Muslim population” “based on government statistics, state documents and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members and a former detention camp instructor”.

In that report, two graphs are shown. One compares the rate of sterilizations in Xinjiang – the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region – to the rate nationally across China, showing parity in 2016 (~28 v. ~38 per 100,000) and an over 800% increase in the rate in Xinjiang over two years (to ~243 per 100,000). The other shows a dramatic decrease in the birth rate of the predominately Muslim-populated Hotan and Kashgar regions of Xinjiang over the same time, showing it “plunged by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018”. I share those graphs below.

A merciless irony haunts us. “Leaked data obtained and corroborated by the AP showed that of 484 camp detainees listed in Karakax county in Xinjiang, 149 were there for having too many children – the most common reason for holding them” [emphasis added]. “Once in the detention camps, women are subjected to forced IUDs and what appear to be pregnancy prevention shots” – likely medroxyprogesterone acetate – and compelled to recite their “crimes”. “I gave birth to too many children,” goes one example. “It shows I’m uneducated and know little about the law.” 

With what little we may know of the law – at least of the “crime against international law” with which we began – this is genocide. It is birth as crime, family as criminal, community as suspect. It is eugenics in practice, nationalist in spirit, diffuse in form. It is the weaponization of ambivalence paired with the ruthlessness of authoritarianism pursuing the destruction of a people. 

When the birth of others is met by the punitive action(s) of a state, we, as those just on this side of being born and not yet quite on that side of having lived, must denounce this assault on humanity, work to wash clean this blot on we the living, and put our backs into bending the moral arc of the universe against this existential injustice.


  1. Other reasons “listed for internment include “minor religious infection,” “disturbs other persons by visiting them without reasons,” “relatives abroad,” “thinking is hard to grasp” and “untrustworthy person born in a certain decade.”