While no official explanation of the replacement of Wang Lequan as had of the Party in Xinjiang has been publicly given, the change follows an internal meeting earlier this week that reviewed the unrest in the western province where rioting last July left nearly 200 people dead. Zhang Chunxian, previously party boss in Hunan, takes over as party secretary, the most powerful post in the province, while Wang, who has close links to President Hu Jintao and has been in the Politburo since 2002 with responsibility for ethnic minority affairs, moves to a party job in Beijing. There he will be deputy secretary of the political and legislative affairs committee of the Party’s Central Committee, Xinhua reports. That will be interpreted as a demotion, though now 65 Wang has held the job since 1995.
Xinjiang’s predominantly Muslim ethnic Uighurs won’t be sorry to see him go. For more than a decade he has cracked down on Uighur separatists and enforced a systematic Hananization of the province through measures such as making all teaching in primary schools in Chinese, limiting observation of Muslim festivals and encouraging westward Han migration from the rest of China as he opened up the region’s oil resources. Beijing’s plans for Xinjiang, which the 57-year-old Zhang will have to implement, call for more long-term economic development in the same vein.