Beijing has appointed a new official in Xinjiang to replace its strongman in the region, Chen Quanguo, on a US blacklist, as the treatment of Uyghurs crystallizes tensions between China and the West.
Xinjiang (northwest) has long been subjected to bloody attacks, targeting civilians in particular and attributed to Uyghur separatists or Islamists. The area is now under strict control.
Chen Quanguo, a former soldier, has been since August 2016 the highest communist official in this region with a size three times the size of France.
After his arrival, information emerged indicating the existence of an archipelago of “camps” in the region, which Beijing initially denied.
The official Xinhua news agency announced on Saturday that 66-year-old Chen Quanguo was “no longer holding” his position, and did not specify why Mr. Chen would be replaced or appointed in the future.
Xinjiang is now headed by Ma Shengrui, who until then ruled Guangdong Province (southern) of which Canton was the capital.
The announcement comes just days after Washington imposed new sanctions on Chinese companies accused of violating fundamental rights in Xinjiang.
As such, Chen Quanguo has been targeted by US sanctions since 2020.
Western studies, based on interpretations of official Chinese documents, testimonies of alleged victims and statistical extrapolation, accuse Chinese authorities of suppressing Uyghurs.
According to human rights associations, more than 1 million people in Xinjiang are detained or have been detained in political re-education centers.
Beijing disputes this figure and talks about vocational training centers aimed at keeping “trainees” away from extremism.
Prior to his position in Xinjiang, Chen Quanguo held the same position as the CPC Secretary of the Communist Party of China in Tibet between 2011 and 2016.
He has emerged there to restore order after demonstrations and a series of fires by Buddhist monks.
In 2017, he became a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China, the 25-member body that governs China: a promotion widely seen as a reward for the stability that exists in Xinjiang.
The appointment of a new official in this strategic region of China came on Christmas Day. Beijing usually takes holidays at this time in the West to send sensitive business.
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