How China controls Xinjiang: New report sheds light on ‘stability maintenance’ system

Politics & Current Affairs

A new report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute uncovers new details of China’s extraordinary effort to exert control over the Xinjiang region since 2014, including more insight into the use of predictive policing systems.

kashgar police
Police officers patrol in the old city in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 4, 2021. REUTERS/Thomas Peter.

The human rights abuses involved in China’s large-scale, coercive assimilation program in the country’s Xinjiang region have been well-documented for years. Observers differ about how to characterize the overall program, which has involved extralegal detention — leading, increasingly, to mass formal incarceration — along with hyperactive policing, reproductive oppression, less-than-voluntary labor programs, destruction of the linguistic and cultural heritage of Uyghurs and other ethnic minority groups, and more.

  • One takeaway has become clear in the past year: The Chinese Communist Party is not shying away from large-scale assimilation — General Secretary Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 said a little over a year ago that the policies in Xinjiang were “completely correct,” and he has given more recent comments indicating his satisfaction with the direction of ethnic policy.
  • The exact reasons for the turn towards more aggressive assimilation are not known, but one prominent government rationale for policies in Xinjiang is to promote “social stability.” A recent scaling back of visible signs of the region’s police state, as reported by the Associated Press, seems to indicate that authorities think they are achieving this stated goal.

But how does Xinjiang’s “stability maintenance” system work, on the ground? Until now, perhaps the most detailed look into the inner workings of the region’s police systems and detention facilities was from the “China Cables” in 2019.

New report on Xinjiang governance

“The architecture of repression,” a new report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), sheds light on the extraordinary effort that has gone into controlling Xinjiang over the course of two campaigns, what it labels the “2014 Counterterrorism Campaign” and the “2017 Re-education Campaign in Xinjiang.”

  • One key finding is that the IJOP “is managed by Xinjiang’s Political and Legal Affairs Commission (PLAC) through a powerful new organ called the Counterterrorism and Stability Maintenance Command, which is a product of the Re-education Campaign.”

Based on “thousands of Chinese-language sources, including leaked police records and government budget documents,” the ASPI report consists of an 82-page written document and an interactive chart of 170 administrative organs at all levels of government in China that have had a hand in “stability maintenance” in Xinjiang since 2014.

  • The report also collects information on over 440 Party secretaries that have served in Xinjiang since 2014, including two — Erken Tuniyaz, chairman of the Xinjiang region, and Yao Ning, a local Party secretary — who “have studied on coveted fellowships at Harvard University,” the Financial Times notes.
  • As of September 2021, “not a single county Party secretary in Xinjiang is Uyghur,” the report claims.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry dismissed the latest ASPI report as “nothing but slanderous rhetoric without any credibility.”

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