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China appoints official hit by US sanctions in Tibet

By K J M Varma
October 19, 2021 16:28 IST
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China's ruling Communist Party has appointed Wang Junzheng, sanctioned by the US, Britain, EU and Canada for his alleged role in the human rights violations against Uygur Muslims in Xinjiang, as the head of its party unit in the sensitive Himalayan region of Tibet.

IMAGE: A performance to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China at the National Stadium in Beijing, June 28, 2021. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Wang Junzheng has been appointed as secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Tibet Autonomous Regional Committee, replacing Wu Yingjie, state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

Wang, 58, became China's highest-ranking official to be sanctioned in March over accusations of human rights violations during his tenure as Xinjiang's deputy party secretary and security chief, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

He served as Xinjiang's security chief from 2019 before starting his most recent role last year as political commissar of the paramilitary Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, while retaining his post as deputy party chief.

For over a year China is battling out allegations of human rights violations against Uygur Muslim population in Xinjiang where Beijing has deployed a large number of security forces to quell unrest among Uygurs over the increasing settlements of majority Han Chinese from other provinces.

The US has termed China's security crackdown in Xinjiang where thousands of Uygurs reportedly were held in detention camps as genocide. China denies the allegations saying that its security crackdown in Xinjiang was aimed at curbing terrorism.

China accuses the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), active in the province, of carrying out numerous violent attacks in the resource-rich border region.

Wang's promotion underlines Beijing's snub of the West's response to its policies in Xinjiang as well as its growing interest in the pool of officials who have been held up as examples of competence in areas with large ethnic minority populations, the Post report said.

Observers say his new appointment also points to China's plan to keep a tight security lid in Tibet by continuing the crackdown against the Dalai Lama and his supporters, whom Beijing terms as separatists and splittists.

Wang will be taking over his new job in Tibet from Wu Yingjie in two months' time when he retires at the age of 65.

Besides Wang's promotion, CPC also appointed new secretaries for Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Jiangxi and Hunan provinces.

The appointments come ahead of the key conclave in November ahead of next year's Party Congress which will pave the way for major leadership changes and a possible unprecedented third term for President Xi Jinping.

The 19th CPC Central Committee will hold its sixth plenary session in Beijing from November 8 to 11.

The plenary session is regarded as significant as it is the biggest party meet ahead of next year's leadership change at the Party Congress.

Politically it was regarded as a key meeting for 68-year-old Chinese President Xi, who has emerged as the most powerful leader after party founder Mao Zedong as he is widely expected to take up an unprecedented third term in office.

All predecessors of Xi have retired following the mandatory rule of two consecutive five-year terms.

Xi is widely regarded to be in power after the end of his second tenure later next year, possibly for life in view of a constitutional amendment in 2018 which removed the two-term limit for the President.

He has also been made “core leader” of the party in 2016 a status enjoyed by Mao.

Ahead of Wang's appointment Qizhala, an ethnic Tibetan and Chairman of China's Tibet Autonomous Region has been shifted recently to Beijing for a higher position in the national legislature.

Qizhala, 63, whose original name is Che Dalha has left Lhasa to take up a new job in Beijing.

Qizhala has been head of the Tibetan government since 2017 and was expected to take on a new role in the top legislature, the National People Congress (NPC).

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K J M Varma
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