Friday, March 7, 2014

A wall of bronze and iron for ethnic unity in China?

Zhang Chunxian with 'ethnic minorities' in Xinjiang
At the end of January, I questioned 'Where is Yu?'
In Communist China, leaders of the Politburo (particularly of the Standing Committee) are usually assigned a specific job with specific responsibilities.
I then wrote: "Yu Zhengsheng, No 4 in the Standing Committee of the CCP's Politburo is normally considered as the leader in charge of the country's (restive) minorities, as well as Taiwan. One could have thought that he would have been a pillar of the new National Security Commission (NSC) which will oversee, coordinate and monitor the country's foreign policy as well as the domestic and defense issues related to security."
Why Mr. Yu was not made a member of the NSC remains a mystery as he still Chairman of both Central Working Coordination Small Groups on Tibet and Xinjiang; he is also responsible for the relations with Taiwan.
Even more intriguing, this article which appeared in The South China Morning Post today. It quotes Zhang Chunxian, the Party Secretary of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Zhang says: "We will properly conduct our work in Xinjiang under the leadership of the National Security Commission"?
Does it mean that the Central Working Coordination Small Groups on Xinjiang will have no role to play anymore in the restive region's affairs?
Does it mean that in addition of his other tasks, Xi Jinping will also look after Xinjiang, sidelining the Small Group and Mr. Yu?
Answers to these questions may (or not) emerge during the next few months.
For the time being, it looks like the 'normal' Chinese norms of governance are not followed by Xi Jinjing, who yesterday called for 'resolute opposition to any words and actions that damage the country's ethnic unity.'
He joined a panel discussion with members from the so-called minority ethnic groups of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (chaired by Yu).
Xi stated: "We will build a 'wall of bronze and iron' for ethnic unity, social stability and national unity," adding that the ethnic groups were "breathing the same air and sharing the same fate".
This is certainly a simplification of history.
In any case, Beijing's air is not known for its quality.
Xi also said: "Unity and stability are blessings, while secession and turmoil are disasters. People of all ethnic groups of the country should cherish ethnic unity."
The point is that they don't cherish it today.
How is Mr Xi planning to make the Uyghurs, the Mongols or thw Tibetans cherish 'ethnic unity' is a billion yuan question.

Xinjiang to work with National Security Commission to curb violence, Zhang Chunxian says
March 7, 2014
Teddy Ng in Beijing
Xinjiang party chief Zhang Chunxian says the restive autonomous region will work closely with the newly formed National Security Commission.
Zhang said the commission, headed by President Xi Jinping, would play a leading role in maintaining security in the far-western region, where violence has recently flared amid ethnic tensions. Nearly half Xinjiang's population are Turkic Uygurs.
"We will properly conduct our work in Xinjiang under the leadership of the National Security Commission," Zhang said on the sidelines of the National People's Congress yesterday.
The commission also includes Premier Li Keqiang and the chairman of the legislature, Zhang Dejiang. The names of other members have not been disclosed.
There was speculation earlier that the Xinjiang party chief would be a member. Zhang offered only a cryptic reply when asked whether he coud say more about the body and Xinjiang's representation on it. "I can tell you more information about the National Security Commission," he said, but did not elaborate.
Officials say Uygur separatists from Xinjiang carried out a knife attack last Saturday at the railway station in Kunming , capital of Yunnan province in the southwest, in which 29 people were killed and 143 wounded. Authorities also blamed Uygur separatists for a suicide car attack in Tiananmen Square in October.
Zhang said about 90 per cent of Xinjiang's suspected terrorists bypassed the country's internet controls - often called the Great Firewall - to exchange extremist views. He said efforts were needed to stop the spread of such information. The remark appeared to a be reference to virtual private network, or VPN, technology, which many mainlanders rely on to access blocked overseas websites.
Zhang dismissed concerns a recent crackdown on Uygur separatism had fuelled anger among members of the minority group.
Nur Bekri, the head of the regional government, said external forces with ulterior motives were creating instability in Xinjiang.
"We will resolutely crack down [on separatism]," he said. "They make chaos time after time, but they also fail time after time. We are confident in our work."

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