Xinjiang officials fired following further unrest – is it enough?
Xinhua first announced that Urumqi Communist Party chief Li Zhi was to be replaced by Zhu Hailun, the head of Xinjiang region’s law-and-order committee. A later statement added that Liu Yaohua, director of the Xinjiang Autonomous Regional Public Security Department, had also been dismissed.
Correspondents say that protesters who have marched in their thousands through Urumqi in recent days have demanded Mr Li’s dismissal for failing to provide public safety. The BBC’s Michael Bristow in Urumqi says the sacking is unusual as it shows the Chinese authorities believe they may have made mistakes in the handling of the unrest.
Security in Urumqi has been tight this week, after thousands of Han Chinese demonstrated over the alleged hypodermic syringe stabbings. In fresh unrest on Saturday, angry Han Chinese rushed to the city’s main square following reports that three Uighur men had attacked a child with needles. Video of the incident showed police driving the boy away and the crowd being dispersed.
But is firing two officials, even senior ones, sufficient? Did they personally make mistakes or are they useful sacrificial lambs to try to calm Han Chinese down? What if they don’t calm down – would Wang Lequan (Xinjiang CCP boss) be next, or is he too powerful to go? Should he be held responsible for this new round of violence so soon after the first?
Clearly the authorities want to do something to reassure the public, but re-organising leadership by itself will not be a solution unless it introduces new ideas and policy. There is a climate of fear and anger in Xinjiang that won’t disappear by itself. Do the firings of the two officials herald a change in policy or indicate an exhaustion of ideas as to how to not just contain the situation but find a solution to wider problems that cause unrest?
What we need is a serious look at what is going on in Xinjiang, much like the report produced by Gongmeng. Of course the fact the Chinese NGO was broken up by the Chinese authorities means that even other NGOs will be reluctant to produce such analysis. Just when China needs answers into ethnic conflict, it looks like there might not be anyone willing to objectively look into this problem.
Clearly it’s time to stop the harassment of NGOs like Gongmeng. Sure, they may cause irritations for the CCP from time-to-time – it’s arguable that actions taken against them and others can be considered an effort to make things more “harmonious” ahead of the upcoming 60 year party, though of course that’s no justification. But such organisations also provide an invaluable service for the country, such as by providing a non-Party, yet well-considered Chinese view on some of the problems the country is facing. If the views are foreigners are anathema to the CCP, it’s time to encourage fresh, Chinese thinking outside of the Party. Let the NGOs do that.
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