China’s appointment of new Xinjiang chief won’t change Uyghur crackdown

China has appointed the governor of the coastal province of Guangdong as the new secretary of the Communist Party of its far-western region of Xinjiang, replacing Chen Quanguo, seen as the architect of the brutal crackdown on Uyghurs and other minorities Muslim.

Ma Xingrui, 62, who has ruled economically vibrant Guangdong since 2017, will become party leader of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported on December 25.

Chen, 66, has held his current post since August 2016 and has been accused by the West of spearheading repressive policies and serious human rights violations against the 12 million Uyghurs who live in Xinjiang.

During his tenure as Xinjiang Party leader, China set up a network of detention camps in which up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been held since 2017 on behalf of prevention of religious extremism and terrorism.

Although Chen has denied widely documented and credible reports of abuse in the camps, he has become the highest Chinese official to be sanctioned by the US government in 2020 in connection with rights violations in Xinjiang.

The US government and the legislatures of several European countries have declared that China’s actions in Xinjiang constitute genocide and crimes against humanity.

On December 23, US President Joe Biden enacted the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, blocking the importation of goods into the United States from Xinjiang without “clear and convincing evidence” that they were not. made with forced Uyghur labor.

In early December, the Uyghur Court, an independent People’s Court in London, determined that China had committed genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

The court also found that Chen, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and other senior Chinese Communist Party government officials bore primary responsibility for the crackdown and abuse.

Adrian Zenz, a German researcher who provided crucial evidence to the Uyghur court on the Chinese government’s atrocities against the Uyghurs and efforts to reduce the predominantly Muslim population in Xinjiang, said Chen was transferred to Xinjiang due to his ability to quickly create measures against Uyghurs.

“He was the ideal person to scale up the police apparatus very quickly, to accelerate the internment campaign for re-education very quickly from the initial small-scale re-education efforts that exist, and to accelerate all other measures,” he said. he declares.

Chen’s replacement is a “shift from high-impact, high-pressure mode to a long-term maintenance mode that will continue to use oppressive long-term policies,” Zenz, an independent researcher in the Washington, DC-organization, told nonprofit based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

“[With his] replacement by the governor of Guangdong, we can see Beijing’s strategy of long-term economic development of the region while maintaining oppression, assimilation, optimization of the population and labor costs to strong impact that will all be sustained in a way that’s sort of like slow, slow genocide, ”he said.

“I think that was largely planned already,” Zenz added.

Prior to his appointment in Xinjiang, Chen served as party secretary of the neighboring Tibet Autonomous Region, another ethnic region considered sensitive but not as turbulent as Xinjiang, from 2011 to 2016.

“Chen Quanguo was known for his uncompromising approach to Tibet before Xinjiang, where he enhanced assimilation by building a security architecture that enabled surveillance, control and oppression,” said Kunga Tashi, an expert on Tibet-China relations.

The change of leadership in Xinjiang would not bring any change in the repression of the Uyghurs, he added.

“Ma Xingrui, who will replace Chen Quanguo as Xinjiang party leader, has promised to maintain the current state of supervision in Xinjiang as it is now,” the Tibetan said. “So I think this replacement just has to do with a larger reshuffle before the 20th of next year. [National] Party Congress and nothing to do with ending harsh policies in Xinjiang. “

Translated by RFA Uyghur and Tibetan services. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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