On the eve of the Beidaihe conference, Xi Jinping made a rare appearance in Xinjiang from July 12 to July 15. This was his first visit to this complex area in more than 8 years. On July 15, the CCTV news broadcast spent nearly 33 minutes covering the news, which attracted the public’s attention.
China’s state news agency Xinhuanet on Friday, July 15, reported that Xi Jinping conducted “investigation and inspection” in the Xinjiang region from Tuesday to Thursday, including visits to universities and the international commercial inland port area in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi.
Gao Yu (高瑜), an independent reporter who used to work at China News Agency, tweeted that the news broadcasted that night, July 15, was 51 minutes long, while Xi Jinping’s Xinjiang visit lasted for 32 minutes and 57 seconds. Gao said that “Xi Jinping’s visits to places, and having such a long news report from beginning to end, is very rare”.
The official media video also drew attention to the fact that, as in his July 1 visit to Hong Kong, Xi Jinping brought along Wang Xiaohon (王小洪) his right-hand man, who has just been promoted to Minister of Public Security. The Xinhua News Agency report did not name Wang Xiaohong and the news host did not say Wang Xiaohong’s name when introducing Xi’s escorts, but Wang Xiaohong appeared in the video.
According to Vision Times, some observers believe that Xi Jinping asked the Minister of Public Security to accompany him on an inspection tour because he was not secure in case of an assassination attempt. When Xi Jinping visited Macau and Tibet in recent years, Wang Xiaohong also accompanied him. It can be said that Wang is Xi’s most trusted bodyguard in Zhongnanhai.
Unlike Western leaders, assassinations of top CCP officials often come from political opponents within the CCP. Also, according to Vision Times, there was news that Mao Zedong had poisoned his rival Wang Ming (王明), and Hu Jintao (胡锦涛) also nearly died at the hands of naval commander Zhang Dingfa (t张定发).
In addition, Xi Jinping’s return to Xinjiang after 8 years is also related to the special status of this region. This is where millions of construction troops are stationed, and is also the province with the largest number of troops in China.
According to Baidu, the Xinjiang Construction and Manufacturing Corps, founded in the 1950s, is a paramilitary organization in China with three functions: reclamation, stability maintenance, and border protection. This corps was added to the list of entities sanctioned by the United States in August 2020 for its role in human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Tang Jingyuan (唐靖远), a commentator on current affairs, told RFA on July 16 that, “they are believed to be the main force involved in forced labor, such as in cotton production and many other industries, which are the source of their economy. A large number of the workers they employ may come from ethnic minorities incarcerated in vocational education camps.” He believed that Xi Jinping’s visit to this corps shows a high degree of assertion about his role in the so-called “stability maintenance”.
“The real purpose of Xi Jinping’s visit is to certify his political achievements,” said Tang Jingyuan. “The main aim is to show his achievements in governing Xinjiang, cleaning up and justifying the genocide charges of the international community.”
Tang analyzed that Xi believed that he had three major achievements, including the “zero covid” policy in locking down cities, the second is the completion of the so-called “second reunification” for Hong Kong, and the third is the so-called “transition from chaos to governance” in Xinjiang.
In view of the upcoming Beidaihe Conference, regarding personnel issues within the CCP, this trip is also directly related to Xi Jinping’s efforts to be re-elected at the CCP’s 20th National Congress. Tang believed that Xi Jinping’s visit to Xinjiang is also sending a signal to the party that he is preparing and responding to possible accusations and pressure from within the party on the Xinjiang issue.
The U.S. Congress is also pushing for a Uyghur Human Rights Protection Act (H.R.1630) to speed up the asylum process for Uyghurs persecuted by the Chinese government.
Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) said in a commentary that Xi Jinping’s visit has drawn particular attention amid international concern over human rights for ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. European countries and the United States have accused Chinese authorities of setting up “re-education camps” in the region to persecute the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. China has argued that the camps are education and training centers for skill-building and “de-radicalization”, arguing that there have been no further terrorist attacks in Xinjiang after issuing the recent related policies. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, visited Xinjiang in May, but was still unable to quell suspicions from the world.