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story.lead_photo.caption A Uighur woman and children sit on a motorized tricycle at the Unity New Village in Hotan, China, in this September 2018 photo. Birth rates in the mostly Uighur regions of Hotan and Kashgar dropped by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018, government statistics show. (AP/Andy Wong)

The 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, even as it encourages some of the country's Han majority to have more children.

While individual women have spoken out before about forced birth control, the practice is far more widespread and systematic than previously known, according to an AP investigation based on government statistics, state documents and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members and a former detention camp instructor. The campaign over the past four years in the far west region of Xinjiang is leading to what some experts are calling a form of "demographic genocide."

The state regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands, the interviews and data show. Even while the use of IUDs and sterilization has fallen nationwide, it is rising sharply in Xinjiang.

The population control measures are backed by mass detention both as a threat and as a punishment for failure to comply. Having too many children is a major reason people are sent to detention camps, the AP found, with the parents of three or more ripped away from their families unless they can pay huge fines.

Birth rates in the mostly Uighur regions of Hotan and Kashgar plunged by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018, the latest year available in government statistics. The hundreds of millions of dollars the government pours into birth control have transformed Xinjiang from one of China's fastest-growing regions into one of its slowest in just a few years, according to new research obtained by The Associated Press in advance of publication by China scholar Adrian Zenz.

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"This is part of a wider control campaign to subjugate the Uighurs," said Zenz, an independent contractor with the nonprofit Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Xinjiang government did not respond to multiple requests for comment. However, Beijing has said in the past that the new measures are merely meant to be fair, allowing both Han Chinese and ethnic minorities the same number of children.

Under China's now-abandoned "one child" policy, the authorities had long encouraged, sometimes forced, contraceptives, sterilizations and abortions on Han Chinese. But minorities were allowed two children -- three if they came from the countryside.

That changed under President Xi Jinping, China's most authoritarian leader in decades. Soon after he came to power, the government revised birth regulations so Xinjiang's Han Chinese could have two or three children, just like minorities.

While equal on paper, in practice Han Chinese are largely spared the abortions, sterilizations, IUD insertions and detentions for having too many children that are forced on Xinjiang's other ethnicities, interviews and data show. Some rural Muslims were punished even for having the three children allowed by the law.

Fifteen Uighurs and Kazakhs told the AP they knew people interned or jailed for having too many children. Many received years, even decades in prison.

Once in the detention camps, women are subjected to forced IUDs and what appear to be pregnancy prevention shots, interviews and data show.

One former detainee, Tursunay Ziyawudun, said she was injected until she stopped having her period and kicked repeatedly in the lower stomach during interrogations. She now can't have children and often doubles over in pain, bleeding from her womb, she said. Ziyawudun said women at her camp were made to undergo gynecology exams and get IUDs, and their "teacher" told them they would face abortions if found pregnant.

In 2014, just over 200,000 IUDs were inserted in Xinjiang. By 2018, that jumped more than 60 percent to nearly 330,000 IUDs. At the same time, IUD use fell sharply elsewhere in China, as many women began getting the devices removed.

Chinese health statistics also show a sterilization boom in Xinjiang.

Budget documents obtained by Zenz show that starting in 2016, the Xinjiang government began pumping tens of millions of dollars into a birth control surgery program. Even while sterilization rates plummeted in the rest of the country, they surged sevenfold in Xinjiang from 2016 to 2018, to more than 60,000 procedures.

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Gulnar Omirzakh, second right, and her husband, Baqytali Nur, third right, eat lunch with friends and family at their home in Shonzhy, Kazakhstan on Saturday, June 13, 2020. Omirzakh, an ethnic Kazakh, says she was forced to get an intrauterine contraceptive device when living in China, and that authorities threatened to detain her if she didn't pay a large fine for having a third child. (AP Photo/Mukhit Toktassyn)
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Gulnar Omirzakh prepares a kettle of tea in her home in Shonzhy, Kazakhstan on Saturday, June 13, 2020. “God bequeaths children on you. To prevent people from having children is wrong,” says Omirzakh of the Chinese government. “They want to destroy us as a people.” (AP Photo/Mukhit Toktassyn)
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Alif Baqytali plays on a tricycle at his home in Shonzhy, Kazakhstan on Saturday, June 13, 2020. Baqytali's mother, Gulnar Omirzakh, a Chinese-born ethnic Kazakh, says she was forced to get an intrauterine contraceptive device, and that authorities threatened to detain her if she didn't pay a large fine for giving birth to Alif, her third child. (AP Photo/Mukhit Toktassyn)
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FILE - In this Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, file photo, people line up at the Artux City Vocational Skills Education Training Service Center at the Kunshan Industrial Park in Artux in western China's Xinjiang region. The Associated Press has found that the Chinese government is carrying out a birth control program aimed at Uighurs, Kazakhs and other largely Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, even as some of the country's Han majority is encouraged to have more children. The measures include detention in prisons and camps, such as this facility in Artux, as punishment for having too many children. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)
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In this image from video, Zumret Dawut, a Uighur from China's far western Xinjiang region, holds documents she brought with her, at her new home in Woodbridge, Va., on Monday, June 15, 2020. Dawut says in China, she was forcibly sterilized for having a third child after being released from a Xinjiang detention camp. (AP Photo/Nathan Ellgren)
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This Saturday, June 13, 2020 photo shows a January 2018 document telling Gulnar Omirzakh, a Chinese-born ethnic Kazakh, that she must pay a fine of 17,405 RMB ($2685) for having a third child, at her new home in Shonzhy, Kazakhstan. She says she was forced to get an intrauterine contraceptive device, and that Chinese authorities threatened to detain her if she didn't pay the fine for having a third child. (Courtesy Gulnar Omirzakh via AP)
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In this image from video, Zumret Dawut, a Uighur woman from China's far western Xinjiang region, holds a phone with a picture of her kids at her home in Woodbridge, Va., on Monday, June 15, 2020. She says in China, a doctor tied her fallopian tubes. After waking from the anesthesia, she felt her womb ache, as though it was missing something. “I was so angry. I wanted another son,” she said. (AP Photo/Nathan Ellgren)
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This Monday, June 15, 2020 photo shows the receipt for a fine levied on Zumret Dawut, a Uighur woman from China's far western Xinjiang region, for having too many children. Dawut, who now lives in Woodbridge, Va., says she was fined 18,400 RMB ($2,600) for having a third child and forcibly sterilized after being released from a Xinjiang detention camp. (Courtesy Zumret Dawut via AP)
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FILE - In this Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, file photo, a guard tower and barbed wire fence surround a detention facility in the Kunshan Industrial Park in Artux in western China's Xinjiang region. The Associated Press has found that the Chinese government is carrying out a birth control program aimed at Uighurs, Kazakhs and other largely Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, even as some of the country's Han majority is encouraged to have more children. The measures include detention in prisons and camps, such as this facility in Artux, as punishment for having too many children. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

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