Senator Marco Rubio, Cochairman
Xinjiang Communist Party Official Promoted to Acting Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region
The Communist Party Central Committee appointed Zhang Qingli, Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and commander of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), to be the acting Party secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) Party Committee, according to a November 27 Reuters report.
The Communist Party Central Committee appointed Zhang Qingli, Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and commander of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), to be the acting Party secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) Party Committee, according to a November 27 Reuters report. Zhang replaces Yang Chuantang, who suffered a stroke in November after taking over as the TAR Party secretary in December 2004. Analysts consider Zhang an ally of President Hu Jintao through his service in the Communist Youth League from 1979-1986, according to a November 28 South China Morning Post report (registration required). The Party posted Zhang to Gansu province in 1998, where he was secretary of the Lanzhou Party Committee (Gansu Daily, in FBIS 30 May 99), and thereafter was transferred to the XUAR as commander of the XPCC in October 1999 (Gansu Daily, in FBIS 27 May 99), according to an Online biography available on China Vitae.
Zhang’s tenure in the XUAR coincides with a period of Chinese government repression of the human rights of ethnic Uighurs. (See the CECC 2005 Annual Report, Rights Violations in Xinjiang.) The U.S. Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2004 describes how government authorities in Xinjiang do not distinguish between violent crime and the peaceful exercise of legitimate human rights:
Because authorities in Xinjiang regularly failed to distinguish carefully among those involved in peaceful activities in support of independence, "illegal" religious activities, and violent terrorism, it was often difficult to determine whether particular raids, detentions, arrests, or judicial punishments targeted those seeking to worship, those peacefully seeking political goals, or those engaged in violence.
As long as we have enemies in the world who want us dead, as long as Xinjiang has separatists and religious extremists causing trouble, the corps will live forever. It has two roles, to open up wasteland [to agriculture] and protect the frontiers, both an aspect of national security. In peacetime the farming role becomes more important, and in times of tension the security role is more important. The two roles are inseparable.
The XPCC strategy relies in part on promoting immigration of ethnic Han into the XUAR by providing jobs and housing on a large scale. For example, in April 2005, 9,000 workers from Han-populated poor counties in Gansu, Zhang's former post, accepted "long-term contracts" to work on XPCC farms in the XUAR, despite high levels of unemployment among local Xinjiang minorities living near the farms, according to an April 21 Gansu Daily report cited in the CECC 2005 Annual Report. Government-sponsored Han migration to minority areas has exacerbated ethnic tensions in areas like the XUAR and the TAR.
Zhang takes charge in the TAR amidst Tibetan concerns that the Qinghai-Tibet railway, a key project of the Great Western Development program, will lead to large increases in Han migration. Workers completed the tracks for the railway in October and full-scale operation is due in 2007. Great Western Development aims to accelerate economic development in China's poorer western area and promote the integration of diverse cultures like Uighurs and Tibetans into the Han-dominated mainstream. The Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law (REAL) claims in its Preamble to reflect "the state's full respect for and guarantee of ethnic minorities’ right to administer their internal affairs," but implementation of the REAL is weak in practice. See Section III(a) - "China’s Minorities and Government Implementation of the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law" of the CECC 2005 Annual Report for more information on minority issues and the system of regional autonomy.