China mixes financial, educational and career incentives with coercive measures such as threats to families under state policies to promote intermarriage between majority Han Chinese and ethnic minority Uyghurs in the restive Xinjiang region, a new report by a Uyghur rights group has found.
The Uyghur Human Rights Project analysed Chinese state media, policy documents, government sanctioned marriage testimonials, as well as accounts from women in the Uyghur diaspora to state that government incentives with coercion to boost interethnic marriages has increased since 2014, RFA reported.
"The Chinese Party-State is actively involved in carrying out a campaign of forcefully assimilating Uyghurs into Han Chinese society by means of mixed marriages," said the report.
The findings on forced marriages by the Washington-based NGO come as Western governments and the United Nations have recognised that Chinese policies in Xinjiang amount to or may amount to genocide or crimes against humanity.
Forced labour, incarceration camps and other aspects of China's rule in Xinjiang have drawn sanctions from Britain, Canada, the European Union and the United States, RFA reported.
The study, 'Forced Marriage of Uyghur Women: State Policies for Interethnic Marriage in East Turkistan', draws on state media propaganda films, state-approved online accounts of interethnic marriages and weddings, state-approved personal online testimonials from individuals in interethnic marriages, as well as government statements and policy directives.
"The Party-State has actively encouraged and incentivized 'interethnic' Uyghur-Han intermarriage since at least May 2014," the Uyghur Human Rights Project said in the report.
Interethnic marriage policies gained momentum after Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a "new era" at the Xinjiang Work Forum in 2014, touting a policy of strengthening interethnic "contact, exchange, and mingling", the report said, RFA reported.
"Uyghur-Han intermarriage has been increasing over the past several years since the Chinese state has been actively promoting intermarriage," said Nuzigum Setiwaldi, a co-author of the report.
"The Chinese government always talks about how interethnic marriages promote 'ethnic unity' and 'social stability', but these actually are euphemisms for assimilation," she said, RFA reported.
"The Chinese government is incentivising and promoting intermarriage as a way to assimilate Uyghurs into Han society and culture. Carrots include cash payments, help with housing, medical care, government jobs, and tuition waivers," Setiwaldi said.
When it comes to sticks, "young Uyghur women and/or their parents face an ever-present threat of punishment if the women decline to marry a Han 'suitor'," the report said, citing experiences of Uyghur women now living in exile.
"Videos and testimonies have also raised concerns that Uyghur women are being pressured and forced into marrying Han men," said Setiwaldi, RFA reported.