Uyghur Woman Says China Forced Her to Abort Fifth Child

A Uyghur woman was forced by authorities in China's Xinjiang region to abort her fifth child in 2007 when she was six and a half months pregnant, the Associated Press reported. The woman, Bumeryem Rozi, described being rounded up with other pregnant women, put in a car and taken to the hospital.

"They first gave me a pill and said to take it. So I did. I didn't know what it was," Rozi told the AP. "Half an hour later, they put a needle in my belly. And sometime after that I lost my child."

Rozi, who fled China and lives in Istanbul, is one of dozens of expected witnesses who will begin testifying Friday for an independent U.K. tribunal that is investigating whether China committed genocide against the Uyghurs. Coordinators hope that the public testimony and assemblage of evidence will spur international investigation.

Another witness, Semsinur Gafur, who worked as an obstetrician-gynecologist for a village hospital in Xinjiang in the 1990s, said she and her colleagues at the time had to visit houses to check if residents were pregnant. "If a household had more births than allowed, they would raze the home....They would flatten the house, destroy it," she told the AP.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Bumeryem Rozi, 55, a Uyghur who fled from China to Turkey, cries as she talks to the Associated Press, at her home, in Istanbul on June 1. Rozi, a mother of four, is one of three Uyghurs who described forced abortions and torture by Chinese authorities in China's Xinjiang region, ahead of giving testimony to a people's tribunal in London. The tribunal is investigating if Beijing's actions against the Uyghurs amount to genocide. Mehmet Guzel/AP Photo

A third Uyghur exile, Mahmut Tevekkul, said he was imprisoned and tortured in 2010 by Chinese authorities who interrogated him for information about one of his brothers. Tevekkul said the brother was wanted partly because he published a religious book in Arabic.

Tevekkul described being beaten and punched in the face during questioning.

"They put us on a tiled floor, shackled our hands and feet and tied us to a pipe, like a gas pipe. There were six soldiers guarding us. They interrogated us until the morning and then they took us to the maximum-security area of the prison," he said.

The tribunal is the latest attempt to hold China accountable for alleged rights abuses against the Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim and ethnic Turkic minorities.

An estimated 1 million people or more—most of them Uyghurs—have been confined in re-education camps in Xinjiang in recent years, according to researchers. Chinese authorities have been accused of imposing forced labor, systematic forced birth control and torture, and separating children from incarcerated parents.

Beijing has flatly rejected the allegations. Officials have characterized the camps, which they say are now closed, as vocational training centers to teach Chinese language, job skills and the law to support economic development and combat extremism. China saw a wave of Xinjiang-related terror attacks through 2016.

The hearings' organizers said Chinese authorities have ignored requests to participate in the proceedings. The Chinese embassy in London did not respond to requests for comment, but officials in China have said the tribunal is set up by "anti-China forces" to spread lies.

"There is no such thing as genocide or forced labor in Xinjiang," the region's government spokesperson Elijan Anayat told reporters Thursday. "If the tribunal insists on going its own way, we would like to express our severe condemnation and opposition and will be forced to take countermeasures."

In April, Britain's parliament followed those in Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada in declaring that Beijing's policies against the Uyghurs amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity. The U.S. government has also done the same.

But Geoffrey Nice, the lawyer leading the tribunal, said so far those declarations of genocide have come with limited analysis of evidence about the intentions behind the Chinese government's policies.

"It is the mental state of those organs [of the Chinese government] that would have to be examined or established and proved if any finding of genocide is ever to be made," Nice said. "It's pretty obvious that purpose and intent is going to be critical."

Nice was one of nine British citizens sanctioned by China in March for spreading "lies and disinformation" about the country. The move came after the U.K. and other Western governments took similar measures against China over its treatment of the Uyghurs.

The lawyer said he isn't intimidated, but admitted that the sanctions have resulted in some participants withdrawing from the tribunal. Organizers also said they have been subjected to cyber targeting. They had to increase the event's security after about 500 of the hearings' free tickets were booked up by people with fake email addresses.

While her fellow exiles said they agreed to testify to seek justice, Rozi, the woman who reported the forced abortion, says she is motivated to speak out for a more personal reason. Her youngest son has been detained since 2015, when he was just 13, and she hopes the tribunal's work will help lead to his freedom one day.

"I want my son to be freed as soon as possible," she said. "I want to see him be set free."

Uyghurs Protest
In London on April 22, members of the Uyghur community hold placards as they call on the British Parliament to vote to recognize persecution of China's Uyghurs as genocide and crimes against humanity. Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images