Beijing has promoted a senior official in China’s far-western Xinjiang region whose name has appeared on multiple Western sanction lists for his role in suppressing Uyghur communities, which several countries have labeled as genocide.
Wang Junzheng, 58, has been placed in the top Chinese Communist Party (CCP) post in Tibet after serving as the Party boss of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), a paramilitary group in Xinjiang accused of serious human rights violations.
His promotion was announced on Chinese state media on Oct. 19, along with the installations of six other regional chiefs. The promotion comes as the CCP gears up for the 20th National Party Congress next year, which will mark its largest leadership reshuffle in five years.
Wang was one of four Chinese officials sanctioned by the United States, Canada, the UK, and the EU earlier in 2021, making him one of the regime’s highest-ranking figures to be hit with such punitive measures.
He told state media at the time that the sanctions were “a piece of waste paper,” saying he had no interest in traveling to those countries and “not a penny” in their banks.
In 2019, Wang became the head of the regional Political and Legal Affairs Commission in Xinjiang, a powerful political organ responsible for law enforcement and public security. He also assumed the role of deputy security chief at the region’s Party committee in 2020 and became the political commissar at the XPCC, which has also been sanctioned by the United States.
Wang will be taking over the post from the retiring official Wu Yingjie, who, in an Oct. 19 speech, characterized the personnel changes as Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s “thorough affirmation” to their handling of Tibet. At the same conference, attended by all major officials in Tibet, Wang vowed to devote himself to the Party and to build a “loyal, clean, and responsible” cadre team.
Beijing took over Tibet in 1951 after promising the region’s people the right to exercise autonomy. Over the years, however, the regime has continued to intensify its control over the local population, forcing monks and nuns to resume secular life and promoting Mandarin Chinese over the Tibetan language.
In August, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang told Tibetans to accept the Party’s leadership, claiming it to be the only way for Tibet to prosper.