US sanctions: China replaces Xinjiang party chief amid forced labour allegations

China’s Communist party has replaced its chief in the volatile northwest region of Xinjiang Chen Quanguo who was last year sanctioned by the US for alleged human rights abuses against the minority Uighur Muslims in the remote region.
Workers are seen on the production line at a cotton textile factory in Korla, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China. (REUTERS)
Workers are seen on the production line at a cotton textile factory in Korla, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China. (REUTERS)
Published on Dec 25, 2021 10:04 PM IST
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BySutirtho Patranobis I Edited by Amit Chanda

The ruling Communist party has replaced its chief in the volatile northwest region of Xinjiang Chen Quanguo who was last year sanctioned by the US for alleged human rights abuses against the minority Uighur Muslims in the remote region.

Ma Xingrui, who was the governor of Guangdong province, has been appointed as new party chief for Xinjiang.

“The CPC Central Committee has appointed Ma Xingrui as new party chief for Xinjiang. Chen Quanguo, who no longer serves as secretary of the Xinjiang Uigur Autonomous Regional Committee of the CPC, will be given another appointment, according to a decision by the CPC Central Committee,” a statement published by the Xinhua news agency said on Saturday.

The move to replace Chen, who has earlier served as the party chief of Tibet, comes a day after US President Joe Biden signed a bill banning goods from Xinjiang unless companies can prove they aren’t made with forced local labour.

Rights groups have alleged oppression of Uighur Muslims in a region that holds a major place in global supply chains.

China has consistently denied such allegations.

Xinjiang is a source for cotton used in clothing and is a key location for producing polysilicon used in solar panels, seen as crucial in the global shift away from fossil fuels.

Chen has been accused by the US, the UK and the European Union of widespread human rights abuses against Uighurs, but he is tipped for a promotion, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on the development.

The three Chinese officials sanctioned by the US last year were Chen, Zhu Hailun, the then party secretary of the Xinjiang Political and Legal Committee and Wang Mingshan, the party secretary of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.

China is battling allegations of human rights violations against Uighur Muslims in the last few years from the West.

The allegations include incarceration of around 1mn people from minority Muslim communities in detention camps, forced labour in manufacturing units of the resource-rich Xinjiang, forced abortions, and mass indoctrination.

Denying these allegations, Beijing says its security crackdown in Xinjiang is aimed at the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which is accused of fuelling terrorism and separatism in the region.

Beijing says it had opened centres for vocational training and deradicalisation of people influenced by separatist forces.

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