Monday, April 26, 2010

Finally Shuffled Out

Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that Wang Lequan, the Party Secretary in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region had been replaced with his counterpart from Hunan Province, Zhang Chunxian. Wang, 65, was appointed as deputy secretary of the political and legislative affairs committee of the Chinese Communist Party's central committee.

Wang had governed Xinjiang for 15 years, and with Hu's support, ruled with an iron fist that culimated in the riots in Urumqi on July 5 last year. He was known as the "stability secretary" as he claimed stability was the top priority... at all costs. So it's interesting to find him replaced just months before the first anniversary of the riots.

However, his exceptionally long tenure also resulted in cronyism by Wang and his cohorts.

Tom Cliff from the Australian National University's Contemporary China Centre writes that during that time Wang replaced cadres from his home province of Shandong in top positions of prefecture-level governments throughout Xinjiang.

One example which now has the status of legend among the Han community tells how he forced farmers near Korla to purchase greenhouse construction materials from his brother Wang Leyi's company rather than obtaining them locally. The materials were shipped out from Shandong and ended up costing twice as much as the local equivalent. He then ordered his cronies in the prefectural government to legislate that each greenhouse must be a minimum acreage which was 6-10 times greater than what the farmers could afford to finance a bank loan for, and for the Bank of China to grant the loans with no questions asked.

Consequently, the farmers all went bust, the bank lost out and the price of winter vegetables in the nearby city of Korla was pushed even higher. For the people of Korla, this was a tangible example of official corruption, greed and incompetence directly affecting their own standard of living, as well as their own inability to do anything about it.

According to Cliff, there was hardly any media attention about this partly because of the Shandong clique, but also because exposing it could threaten stability.

Meanwhile, Han Chinese living in Xinjiang feel they are dealing with the greatest inconveniences and restrictions on freedom than anywhere else in the country, and yet the authorities cannot guarantee their safety on the street.

Although Wang has been replaced, Zhang is not necessarily an expert in dealing with ethnic unrest. He has, however, been successful at economic development, which gives a hint of what's to come -- a resentment of a different kind.

Seems like the Chinese government is hardly interested in tackling the fundamental issue at hand, which is allowing Uyghurs to practice their cultural traditions without government interference.

1 comment:

Delbert said...

Interesting. Is your blog monitored by the government and censored on occasion?