A top Chinese Communist Party official is stepping down after being sanctioned by the United States over “serious rights abuses” being committed against the Uyghur minorities in China’s Xinjiang region.
According to the South China Morning Post last week, Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo, 66, was sanctioned in 2020 “in connection with serious rights abuses against ethnic minorities” in Xinjiang, which includes reports of forced labor, involuntary abortions and severe physical abuse. He is the most senior Chinese official on the US sanctions list.
The state-run publication Xinhua reported that Chen would be appointed to another, more important position likely within the new Politburo Standing Committee – China’s top leadership group – after being replaced by Ma Xingrui, the current governor of Guangdong province.
“The replacement cannot be called a response to international pressure,” said Wu Qiang, a Beijing political analyst. “The pressure does exist, but what Beijing did is the opposite – as Chen might be promoted to a higher level, and the governance model in Xinjiang might be copied elsewhere in the country.”
Chen has been connected to Chinese violence for years. In 2016, he was promoted to become party secretary of Xinjiang, where an estimated one million minorities have been held against their will in what China has characterized as “re-education camps” designed to combat “extremism.” The top CCP official was also previously the party chief in Tibet, another area with a history of rebellion against Beijing.
Earlier this year, Uyghur exiles described the human rights violations being committed against them by the Chinese Communist Party, including forced abortions, killings, torture, rape, enslavement, forced separation of children from their parents, forced sterilization, labor, enforced disappearances, destruction of cultural and religious heritage, persecution, forced marriages, and the imposition of Han Chinese men into Uyghur households.
In October, over 40 Western-led countries condemned China’s widely reported atrocities against the Uyghurs in a statement issued at the United Nations and demanded Beijing allow independent observers into the Xinjiang region.
“We have seen an increasing number of reports of widespread and systematic human rights violations, including reports documenting torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilization, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced separation of children,” said the statement, read by Nicolas De Riviere, France’s ambassador to the U.N., at a meeting of the General Assembly’s Human Rights Committee.
“We urge China to ensure full respect for the rule of law and to comply with its obligations under national and international law with regard to the protection of human rights,” the statement said.