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TAIPEI TIMES: Uighurs could face more repression under new leaders

The below article was published by Taipei Times, photo credit: Reuters

Beijing’s reshuffle of officials in Xingjiang might herald a hardening of repression against Uighurs, an academic at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research said.

Since 2018, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has replaced a slew of top officials in Xinjiang’s communist party, researcher Shih Chien-yu (侍建宇) wrote in a Nov. 9 post on the institute’s blog.

Last month, the government reshuffled three top officials of the regions’ communist party, which marks a near-total turnover of its leadership since 2018, Shih said.

The newcomers include He Zhongyou (何忠友), who is to become the deputy secretary of the Standing Committee for the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, a position of significant power, he said.

Local party secretary Chen Quanguo (陳全國), the only leader of the old guard remaining, would likely be dismissed at the CCP’s National Congress next year, he said.

The reshuffling meant that the CCP has removed virtually every regional official who was sanctioned by the US and its allies, he said.

The move is designed to test Western resolve in imposing new sanctions, as the newcomers would almost certainly continue to carry out repressive policies, Shih said.

Although China’s governance of Xinjiang has been widely criticized by the international community for human rights abuses, the CCP believes that it has made no mistakes, he said.

Instead, it blamed local officials for their failure to represent the party’s achievements in a positive light and their lack of local knowledge as outsiders who had been appointed to the region, he said.

He, an apparatchik trained in data analysis and management at the London School of Economics and University of Massachusetts Boston, has substantial experience in China’s mass surveillance program, Shih said.

He’s professional qualifications are a fit for Xinjiang — a region fast becoming a test bed for digital surveillance technologies — and he has experience in working with foreign officials and press from previous posts, he said.

Beijing increasingly considers Xinjiang a strategic launching pad to expand China’s sphere influence, while the rise of a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan further elevates the importance of security in the region, Shih said.

These factors suggest that Beijing would continue to utilize the “high-pressure” tactics it favored to tighten its grip on Xinjiang, while employing propaganda to conceal its actions, he said.

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