New Xinjiang chief pledges to maintain focus on social stability

Mr Ma Xingrui said that the government would "firmly promote continuous and long-term social stability in Xinjiang". PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Xinjiang's newly appointed leader pledged to maintain a focus on social stability in China's far western region, where human rights practices have fed international criticism and boycotts.

Mr Ma Xingrui, 62, who was named Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang in recent days, pledged in a speech following his appointment on Saturday (Dec 25) to turn Chinese President Xi Jinping's blueprint for the region into reality.

The government would "firmly promote continuous and long-term social stability in Xinjiang and never allow any reversal for the hard-won stability", Mr Ma said, according to the official Xinjiang Daily newspaper.

Mr Ma - previously governor of Guangdong, China's most populous province - replaces Mr Chen Quanguo, 66, in the region's top office.

The outgoing party secretary credited Mr Xi's helmsmanship with achieving general social stability, high-quality economic growth and a happy and peaceful life for the region's residents.

Mr Chen was placed under US sanctions for his role in "implementing a comprehensive surveillance, detention and indoctrination programme" targeting the region's predominately Muslim Uyghur population, the United States Treasury department said last year.

He will take up another as-yet undisclosed position.

US President Joe Biden on Thursday signed into law a Bill banning goods from Xinjiang unless companies can prove they are not made with forced labour.

Xinjiang is a source for cotton used in clothing and is a key location for producing polysilicon used in solar panels, seen as crucial in the global shift away from fossil fuels.

China has repeatedly denied claims of human rights abuses, saying its policies in the region are aimed at quashing extremism and lifting people out of poverty.

Mr Xi ordered the authorities to strike first against terrorism in the region in 2014 after a series of attacks involving Uyghurs.

Mr Ma's appointment suggests the former aerospace engineer is likely to gain a seat on the 25-member Politburo after a twice-a-decade party congress slated to be held later this year.

He headed China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, the main contractor for China's space programme, from 2007 to 2013 and became a vice-minister of industry and information technology that year.

In 2015, he was named party chief of Shenzhen.

Mr Ma became governor of Guangdong in 2017, and also a member of a central coordination group of Hong Kong and Macau affairs.

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