Several residents play traditional instruments on a folk customs street in the old town of Yarkant county in Kashgar, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, on Sept 22, 2020. [Photo by Wang Zhuangfei/chinadaily.com.cn] China rebutted on Monday speculation made by foreign media and politicians over population growth changes in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, saying that these were caused by various factors including changing attitudes toward marriage and raising children. "As people's living conditions keep improving, especially in poor areas in southern Xinjiang, the urbanization process speeds up and people of all ethnic groups receive a better education, more people in Xinjiang voluntarily choose to marry and have babies at a more mature age," said Xu Guixiang, deputy head of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Committee. Xu made the comment at a news conference on Xinjiang-related issues in Beijing on Monday, when he was asked to explain declines in the birthrate and the natural population growth rate in Xinjiang in 2018 compared with the previous year, as revealed by a study released by the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences on Thursday. Despite the declines, the birthrate in Xinjiang was 10.69 per 1,000 people in 2018, which was almost the same as the national level of 10.94 per 1,000 people. The study also pointed out that the eradication of religious extremism has given women more freedom over deciding whether to have children. However, a post by China's embassy in the United States that linked to a China Daily article reporting the study was deleted by Twitter and replaced with a message that said the post "violated" Twitter's rules, without providing further explanation. "We urge some US individuals to stop making irresponsible remarks and stop interfering in China's internal affairs under the pretext of Xinjiang-related issues," Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Monday. Xinjiang now enjoys stable economic development, ethnic unity and an improved standard of living, Zhao said. Li Xiaoxia, a researcher at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences and the author of the study, said the deletion incident reflected a hypocritical attitude toward freedom of expression in the US and some other Western countries. "It only serves political purposes," Li said. The academic, who has studied population issues in Xinjiang since the 1990s, said she would continue to use facts to challenge the false claims made about the region.