Following strong criticism from the West for the crackdown on the Uighur ethnic group, which has even led to US sanctions and a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the Chinese regime has replaced the head of the Communist Party in the troubled Muslim region of Xinjiang, Chen Quanguo. Without giving details about the change, the state agency Xinhua reported on Saturday that he was being replaced by Ma Xingrui, who since 2017 has been the party’s top official in the industrial province of Guangzhou (Guangdong). Although his brief teletype announced that Chen would receive another destination, it did not indicate what it was.
Despite this common lack of information, everything seems to indicate that the change is due to the international campaign against China over the abuses in Xinjiang, where UN researchers and human rights activists estimate that a million Uyghurs have been locked up in reeducation camps to prevent jihadist terrorism.
Although Beijing denied their existence at first, it later claimed that they were vocational schools and acknowledged that a million people had passed through them in recent years, but announced that all “students” had “graduated” by the end of 2019.
According to subsequent investigations, the re-education camps continue to function and some of them are even part of the forced labor system of which the Chinese regime has been accused. For these alleged abuses, the US president, Joe Biden, signed a law passed unanimously in the House of Representatives last week banning imports from Xinjiang. In addition, the Commerce Department imposed restrictions on 30 Chinese research institutes and the Treasury Department blacklisted eight entities for human rights violations.
For all this repression, Chen Quanguo, 66, is considered responsible, or at least the executor, and also subject to international sanctions. Coming from Tibet, another region troubled by its pro-independence tensions, he arrived in Xinjiang in 2016, where he has built a veritable “police state” to keep the Uighurs under control. Although Chen is considered the executing arm of this brutal repression, secret documents leaked to ‘The New York Times’ in November 2019 suggest that the orders came from the top of the regime. Last month, the German researcher Adrian Zenz, who has been documenting and denouncing the re-education camps for years, delved into those ‘Xinjiang Papers’. Through speeches confidential interns who have been leaked, Zenz directly pointed to President Xi Jinping as the main responsible for the mass internments and forced labor.
When foreign journalists travel to Xinjiang, as this correspondent found in March, they are followed 24 hours a day by plainclothes agents so that they do not speak to anyone or approach the closed mosques or those vocational schools that are suspected of being re-education camps. .