Chinese president and Communist Party chief Xi Jinping made a major strategic decision regarding northwestern China's troubled Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region towards the end of last year, reports the website of the pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao.
The Politburo Standing Committee, China's top decision-making body, heard a special report on Xinjiang issues on Dec. 19, with Xi personally ordering departments to develop major strategies to tackle problems in the region over the following week, said Ta Kung Pao, citing a Jan. 7 report in the Chinese-language Xinjiang Daily.
The report said Xinjiang party secretary Zhang Chunxian then hurried back to the regional capital of Urumqi the day after the delivery of the report to conduct a conference with the standing committee of the Xinjiang party committee, which subsequently held a special meeting two days later to discuss research and the implementation of ideas. On New Year's Day, Zhang also held an internal party meeting with his deputies to pass on Xi's personal message and to carry out preliminary preparations for the work ahead in the new year.
Separate meetings were then held on Jan. 2 by the Xinjiang standing committee and vice-ministerial-level officials to discuss strategic plans, followed by another standing committee conference on Jan. 5 to allocate tasks.
Analysts say that the six high-level strategy meetings conducted in Xinjiang within the space of two weeks demonstrate the urgency of the matter for Beijing, while the confidential nature of the discussions and plans illustrate their sensitivity.
Xinjiang is home to the Muslim Uyghur minority group, which is often blamed for separatist terror attacks by the Chinese government. Uyghur activists, on the other hand, point to government suppression and control over their culture, language and religion for the violent outbursts.
Violent clashes between the region's Han Chinese population and Muslim Uyghur minority killed dozens more in April, June and August this year. In October, a jeep carrying three Uyghurs plowed into tourists before crashing and catching fire in Beijing's iconic Tiananmen Square, leaving five dead. This was followed by more unrest in November, when nine civilians and two police were killed in a police station attack near the city of Kashgar in the region's far south. Two more incidents were reported last month, with the first resulting in 14 civilian and two police deaths, and the second, another police station attack, leading to eight more civilian casualties.
The last time China's central government made specific strategic plans for Xinjiang was in May 2010, less than a year after the July 2009 Urumqi riots which killed nearly 200 people. When Zhang was named Xinjiang party chief in April 2010, it was speculated that the central government wanted him to use "flexible" means to bring stability to the region.
However, Beijing-based Xinjiang expert Jiang Zhaoyong told Ta Kung Pao that the central government never said it would be more "flexible" in its governing of Xinjiang, and any suggestions that authorities will abandon the hardline stance they have displayed thus far is a misunderstanding.
Xi Jinping 習近平
Zhang Chunxian 張春賢
Jiang Zhaoyong 蔣兆勇