US-sanctioned Communist Party chief in Xinjiang to step down, be promoted

Beijing, Dec 26 (EFE).- The head of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in the Xinjiang autonomous region, Chen Quanguo, who has been sanctioned by the United States, will leave office and is expected to be given greater responsibilities ahead of the annual congress in 2022.

Chen, 66, is the oldest official on the list of senior Chinese officials sanctioned last year by Washington for alleged human rights violations on the Uighur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, according to the South China Morning Post on Sunday.

The leader, who had been the CPC head in Xinjiang since 2016 and previously held the same position in the province of Tibet, is also one of the 66 members of the ruling party’s powerful Political Bureau.

According to state-owned Xinhua agency, Chen will be promoted to another position and replaced by the current governor of Guangdong province, Ma Xingrui, 62, who is one of China’s most prominent aerospace scientists.

The US imposed sanctions on Chen in 2020 allegedly for serious abuses of the rights of ethnic minorities in the autonomous region, which would include massive arbitrary arrests, forced labor, and the use of severe physical violence against Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.

Beijing, meanwhile, categorically denies these accusations and defends that its policy in Xinjiang seeks to combat extremism and terrorist threats in the region.

On the other hand, the arrival of Guangdong’s governor to replace Chen could be a move to check the sanctions on Xinjiang products imposed by Western nations in recent times and bolster the region’s economy, according to Shenzen University professor Song Xiaozhuang.

Last week Washington banned all imports from Xinjiang over alleged forced labor employment.

Ma’s experience could help Xinjiang’s economic development and also address foreign accusations of forced labor, said Song.

The change, in any case, comes amid preparations for the CPC congress, in which the composition of a new Political Bureau, the most powerful body in the Asian country, will be unveiled.

In recent years, several Uighurs living abroad have publicly denounced suffering human rights abuses and spoken about their plight, as well as that of other Muslim minorities in the region.

In March, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the US, and Canada, among others, announced sanctions against several Chinese officials for alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, which was also reported by organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The nonprofits have also denounced that in Xinjiang Muslims cannot practice their faith freely.

There are many restrictions on reporting from this region and foreign journalists traveling independently to Xinjiang are subject to continuous surveillance and intimidation, according to the latest report by China Foreign Correspondents Club. EFE


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