Newborn babies were killed by lethal injection to enforce the CCP’s family planning against the Uyghurs.
by Ruth Ingram
Ethical standards are swept aside, and unborn babies sacrificed at the altar of family planning policies in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, claims a former nurse whose conscience forbids her to stay silent.
Shemsinur Abdighafur, who gave evidence at the Uyghur Tribunal in London, after graduating as a doctor in Uyghur traditional medicine, worked as an operating theatre nurse in several hospitals throughout Xinjiang. She claims to have witnessed forced abortions and sterilizations, and the killing of newborn babies by lethal injection over the course of her career.
Having fled to Turkey in 2010, Shemsinur now feels compelled to come forward with her testimony. What she has seen and was forced to be part of has troubled her over the years, and despite threats to her family in the homeland and assaults on her own character by the Chinese government she feels she has no alternative but to speak out now.
Her first small cottage hospital performed three to five abortions and sterilization procedures a day. Following the birth of her first child, she was sent to a larger district hospital, where she took further training in a gynecological unit witnessing twenty forced abortions and sterilizations daily. These dilemmas caused her to open her own clinic, but the need to further her professional development forced her again onto the treadmill of family planning. Working in a series of hospitals around the province to gain experience, she was horrified by what she witnessed. Not only was she required to participate in abortions and sterilizations, but often babies were born who were later killed by injection.
“In my time working in hospitals, we could sometimes hear that some babies were born, and they started crying and from this we knew they were alive. But we knew all babies would be given the injection so we knew they would die before they got home,” she said.
Merciless hounding of pregnant women is a striking feature of the draconian clampdowns on extra births, claims Shemsinur, who spoke of the large number of resources used to chase those suspected of flouting family planning regulations. No stone is left unturned to root out secret births, no amount of manpower spared in door-to-door searches to respond to tip offs by whistleblowers.
Several incidents stood out to her.
On one occasion while hiding an “illegally” pregnant friend in her home and planning to deliver the baby herself, they were denounced, rounded up and taken to hospital for a termination. After striking a deal with Uyghur doctors who delivered the baby successfully at seven months, they devised a ruse to present a previously “dispatched” baby from another couple to the authorities with their permission, claiming a successful killing of her friend’s child, and made their escape. Sadly, despite their best efforts and without special care, the baby died four hours later.
Wherever possible, Shemsinur would either hide pregnant women in her home, find others who were willing to risk their own safety to help, or pull strings in her own hospital to protect unborn babies. Spot checks were frequent, but sometimes unknown officials would turn up demanding to inspect their procedures. Despite risking her job or worse to save babies, and because her subterfuge was of necessity secret, she was often the butt of Uyghur criticism and scorn for being “in league with” the authorities. “Since we were working for the state, the local people didn’t trust us. So, they even swore at us and told us we were the dogs of the Chinese, but they didn’t know our real feelings. So, the relationship was not great,” she reported.
So many Uyghur doctors and some private hospitals tried to “subvert” government policy by stepping in to save babies, that local Chinese doctors were called in to take over completely. By administering a smaller dose of the mid-term abortion drug Rivanol, there had been a chance the baby could be born alive. “We saved many babies, so the authorities stopped us doing it and every single case after that was done by the authorities. They stopped trusting us,” she said.
Shemsinur was by now working in a post-natal department, and could barely keep track of the numbers, but she knew they were relentless. Until family planning authorities took over the unit, she managed to gain access to the operating area with the assistance of contacts and monitor the situation. She discovered that at least three to five forced abortions or sterilizations a day were carried out. “If any women got injected with this (drug) the baby died. The syringe and the needle are very long, and it is directly injected into the womb. When they put the needle in, they see if a liquid comes out, if it does it confirms it is in the right place. I witnessed the injection being done. It was done daily,” she testified.
She recounted the tragic death of her sister-in-law, who naively assumed that if she went to a larger town, Karakax, where she was unknown, she could give birth anonymously. This was her “illegal” third pregnancy, and she was expecting twins. Her secret was discovered, and the drug was administered on arrival. Within minutes, not only the babies but also the mother was dead.
“My sister-in-law was very healthy and had no medical condition and just died like that. My husband waited together with my sister-in-law’s husband and just after 15 minutes, less than half an hour a dead body came out. The hospital said she had a heart condition, but I am a doctor, my sister-in-law was thirty years old, and I know she didn’t have a medical condition. The family took the body and they buried her and had a funeral,” she said.
In 2008, through bitter personal experience, Shemsinur was shocked to discover that there was a quota system enforced for hysterectomies. After three years of personal illness brought upon by the death of her father in 2005, doctors eventually discovered a pre-cancerous tumor in her womb. She was threatened that if her womb was not removed, cancer would spread throughout her body. Post-operative pathology reports found no cancer and she realized her hysterectomy had been unnecessary. But after the doctor’s pleas, she decided not to sue when the doctor cited her master’s thesis requiring a sample of 2,000 hysterectomies. “ Each doctor has to remove around two thousand wombs a year,” she had said. “That is our job, we have to do that.”
“Since she was begging me, I decided not to press charges,” said Shemsinur.
Her shocking conclusion, which is as yet untested or researched, but based on personal experience of working in a variety of hospitals around Xinjiang, is that seventy per cent of Uyghur females in the Hotan area had had their wombs removed. “If the authorities found anything in the womb, they used any excuse to remove it,” she said. She assumed the situation in the capital Urumqi was the same. “If a Uyghur woman has a little problem in the womb, they remove it,” she said, citing women she had personally treated. Pointing to her time in the mother and childcare unit in Hotan she said that three out of four women had told her they didn’t have a womb. “Sometimes due to the heavy workload of the birth control department, we came to give a hand. That is how I knew many Uyghur women don’t have wombs,” she said.
During her cross-questioning by the Tribunal concerning the ethics of killing babies who had been born alive, Shemsinur said that ethical standards existed in China’s hospitals, but were followed only until they conflicted with a higher government edict which superseded them. “When it comes to family planning, that is a completely separate government department and they have higher powers,” she said. “We cannot change their standards. Ethics are just ink and a piece of paper when it comes to birth control,” she said.
Shemsinur’s brother came with their mother to visit her in Turkey in 2016 returning to Xinjiang after two weeks. For this, he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Not having heard from any other members of her family for four years since they were cut off from the homeland in 2017, the next time she was to see her sister was on Chinese Television, attacking her during a hastily CCP-convened press conference last week after she had testified to the Tribunal. Relatives of the witnesses were paraded on national television and made to denounce their family members.
Her sister Marhaba, in connection with her sister’s reports that women’s wombs were being removed after two children, was made to respond by saying that she had never seen nor heard of such a thing. She pointed to her own mother who had had eight children and had never been forced to have a hysterectomy. “As for me, I am a cadre with two children and no one has ever forced this on me either,” she shouted. “Everything my sister is saying is lies. This is slandering our country and Xinjiang. I hate you!”
In the propaganda video, she concluded with a flourish, “We are living so well. We are very happy.”