Xinjiang’s leaders must ‘optimise’ governance of region, Communist Party’s No 4 says

Jun Mai
·3-min read

One of the most powerful men in China has told Communist Party officials in Xinjiang to “optimise” governance of the region as criticism grows of Beijing’s policies on religion and treatment of ethnic minority groups there.

“[We] must scientifically grasp the situation of the Xinjiang work, and focus on the ultimate goal of long-term stability,” Wang Yang, who is the fourth-highest ranked member of the Politburo Standing Committee, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

“[We] must uphold ruling Xinjiang by law, innovate ways of social governance, optimise our measures and make our policies more accurate to ensure sustained stability,” he said during a four-day trip to the region that ended on Wednesday.

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Wang Yang oversees the Chinese Communist Party’s policies in Xinjiang and national policies on ethnic and religious affairs. Photo: AFP
Wang Yang oversees the Chinese Communist Party’s policies in Xinjiang and national policies on ethnic and religious affairs. Photo: AFP

Wang, who is the head of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, oversees the party’s policies in Xinjiang and national policies on ethnic and religious affairs.

The European Union on Wednesday agreed to blacklist four Chinese officials for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, the first EU sanctions against Beijing since it imposed an arms embargo in 1989 following the bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square.

None of the officials were named, but Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party chief in Xinjiang, is subject to sanctions imposed by the US during the Donald Trump administration.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday that the issue of Xinjiang would be on the agenda when he and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken meet Chinese diplomats in Alaska on Thursday. Blinken earlier referred to China’s policies in Xinjiang as “genocide”.

During his visit to Xinjiang, Wang reiterated Beijing’s core policies for the region and suggested there would be some small adjustments to its security plans.

He praised the “consolidation” of regional efforts to fight terrorism and alleviate poverty, and told officials to adhere to the sinicisation of religion and to guide Islam in Xinjiang to be more compatible with socialism.

He also urged officials to adhere to the instructions issued by President Xi Jinping during a meeting in September at which he described Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang as being “completely correct”. Xi has not visited the region since 2014.

Barry Sautman, a political scientist at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said Wang’s trip might indicate some shifts in policies related to Xinjiang.

“The news published about Wang Yang’s Xinjiang visit indicates that there will be some adjustments to policy, but it’s mainly a research tour, with a research team,” Sautman said.

“The US/EU pressures probably did influence holding such a visit ... It is likely that the research aspects of these visits will involve some matters related to each of these claims. Local researchers have already been involved in addressing them and there might be exchanges with Wang Yang’s team.”

China likely to respond in kind to EU sanctions on Xinjiang, observers say

Beijing invited a delegation of EU ambassadors to China to visit Xinjiang in February, but the plan fell through when the envoys’ requests to meet imprisoned Uygurs was rejected, though they were offered the rare opportunity to meet Chen Quanguo.

China recently endorsed a series of lawsuits against Adrian Zenz, a German researcher central to claims of abuses in Xinjiang. A senior official in Xinjiang said on Thursday that similar suits would be filed against the BBC, which Beijing claims has been biased in its coverage of Xinjiang.

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