By A political analyst
Recently on the end of October after the People’s Republic of China (PRC) had just celebrated its founding Day on 1st October, there were major changes and ramifications in the political leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), including appointment of 7 new CPC secretaries of provincial governments that included the provinces of Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Yunnan and Guangxi Zhang autonomous region. These 7 provinces are significant regions for China as they not only consolidate the nation’s frontiers with nearly a dozen nations but also have both historical and economical relevance.
Amidst all this we have the dramatic appointment of Wang Junzheng who has the moniker of the “Butcher of Xinjiang” as the CPC secretary of the TAR. He is Han Chinese, who currently serves as the deputy leader of Xinjiang Autonomous Region and is officially sanctioned by the US, EU, Great Britain and Canada for human rights abuses. Hence, the question arises as to why such a change, what does it mean to Tibetans and why Tibet, since its annexation is still not able to have an ethnic Tibetan as the CPC secretary?
Firstly, we must understand the Chinese political structure here to know the relevance and the important clout that the party secretary of provincial level governments has. The PRC is a nation that is divided into provinces and these provinces have similar authority to the states in India or the United States of America. Furthermore, in the provinces it is not the provincial Chairman or the governor who has final say in any decision but it lies in the hands of its secretary. i.e Wang Junzheng in TAR now.
Let’s look into the TAR (which is not the whole of ethnic Tibet) here. In TAR’s governmental structure there is the TAR Government Chairman, the TAR People’s Congress Standing Committee Chairman and the Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) TAR Committee; but all of them are subordinate to the Secretary of the CPC in TAR. This clearly shows that regardless of various government level institutions beyond the centre level, it is the communist party and its embodiment that holds ultimate authority over governance even at the provincial level that further permeates into prefectures, counties, cities, towns and villages. Thereby creating a net of CPC authority from which the people in China can never hide from.
The current Party secretary of TAR, Wu Yingjie is set to retire in December 2021, after which Wang Jungzheng would assume leadership of Tibet. Wang Junzheng currently serves as the deputy leader of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region and has been sanctioned by many western nations for the human rights abuse towards the Uyghur Muslims. He follows many notable CPC members in taking this position with former president Hu Jintao also being the CPC Secretary of TAR from 1988-1992.
It is very interesting to note here how Wang Junzheng currently works under the former CPC secretary of Tibet, Chen Quanguo (2011-2016) who is the working CPC Secretary of Xinjiang. Chen Quanguo was notorious for his hard handedness in TAR during his tenure in TAR, not only has there been an unprecedented rise in unrest in the region but also unwanted spike in Tibetan’s self-immolation, showing the level of frustration that the Tibetan people felt under his duress. He was also the mastermind behind the closing of Tibet’s border towards foreign officials and foreign media houses.
These traits and policies that he piloted in Tibet were taken to Xinjiang and we can see similar level of violence and abuse hurled and adopted towards the Uyghur Muslims under his administration. Chen called his policies and acts in the name of protecting the motherland from terrorism and separatism. And since his appointment as Xinjiang’s leader, the man who always stood by him is Wang Junzheng, with many considering Wang as Chen’s protégé. He not only is Chen’s deputy at Xinjiang but also a close confidant. Wang Junzheng being reined and groomed by Chen Quanguo gives us all a hard time to digest the fact that Tibet would once again live in the era of Chen Quanguo 2.0 with Wang at helm.
In a recent statement by Wang Junzheng after his official appointment as the next Party Secretary of TAR, he mentioned that he would through the powers vested by the party work diligently in adapting Tibet into a complete socialist society and promotes the Sinicization of Tibet. This was a clear indication of the governance approach that he would adopt in Tibet. The current incidents in Tibet which saw the destruction of a monastery, imposition of mandarin and the harsh sentencing of Tibetans who stood against these policies give hindsight of what the future lies ahead for Tibetans in Tibet under Wang. Many leaders of the free world have also commented on it with the current nominee of the Biden administration of US ambassador to China, Nicholas Burn criticising China on counts of human rights recently after Wang’s appointment.
Furthermore, Wang’s appointment as the Party Secretary of TAR follows the sad trend of no ethnic Tibetans holding this important position till now since it got annexed by China in 1951. It illustrates the fact that the CPC still does not trust the Tibetan people even after its recent 70th celebration of the Liberation of Tibet whereby it called Tibetans its brothers who enjoy complete freedom and liberation.
In a nutshell we can see, this act how President Xi Jinping is not only consolidating domestic power in China by having his own confidants in important positions of power but is also shoring up China’s border with more stringent and authoritative leaders.
(The views in the article is of a political analyst and not necessary be agreed by the newspaper.)