Nur Bekri, the highest ranking ethnic Uyghur in the Chinese government but seen as highly unpopular among his people, has been placed under investigation for "serious violations" of the ruling party's laws, state media reported Friday.
Bekri, the head of the National Energy Administration, is being probed for violating disciplinary regulations by the ruling Chinese Communist Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the National Supervisory Commission, the China Daily reported.
The violations could range from involvement in corruption to being disloyal to the party, according to reports.
The 57-year-old Bekri was the chairman of the regional government of the troubled Xinjiang region in the country's northwest for seven years, including during the deadly Urumqi violence between the ethnic Uyghurs and the Han Chinese in June 2009 which left 200 dead according to official figures.
He was criticized by many Muslim Uyghurs who call Xinjiang home for doing little to protect the community when Beijing launched a brutal crackdown against the minority group. Many Uyghurs remain missing following the violence.
Beijing's probe on Bekri comes amid its campaign of extrajudicial mass detentions of Uyghurs in re-education camps that began two years ago and has been heavily criticized by the United States and other countries as well as human rights groups.
“Even though Nur Bekri had shamelessly betrayed his own Uyghur people and done everything he could to prove his loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party by endorsing its brutal rule in East Turkestan, his sudden downfall is a clear indication that no Uyghur is safe under Chinese rule and no Uyghur is seen as loyal to the CCP," said Dolkun Isa, the head of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC).
"His ultimate 'demise' testifies to the fact that Chinese government treats all Uyghurs as criminal suspects and untrustworthy subjects in realizing Xi Jinping’s imperial Chinese dream,” he told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
It was not immediately clear whether the corruption probe on Bekri was in any way linked to the mass crackdown on Uyghurs.
Hundreds of thousands detained
Credible reports indicate that since April 2017, at least hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of Uyghurs have been sent by Chinese authorities to the re-education camps since April 2017, the State Department said recently.
President Donald Trump's administration is considering sanctions on Chinese officials involved in the Xinjiang detentions. France and Germany have called for the camps to be shut down. Chinese officials say the camps are for vocational training, not political re-education.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a speech on the state of religious freedom around the world on Friday, touched on the mass detentions, saying the Uyghurs are being "forced to endure severe political indoctrination and other awful abuses."
Bekri joins a list of top energy officials targeted under President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive that began in 2012.
Prosecutors said Thursday that they had filed corruption charges against a former deputy to Bekri at the energy administration, according to news reports.
Aside from being head of the energy regulating body, Bekri was vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, in charge of formulating and implementing economic and social development strategies.
Last year, he lost his seat on the Communist Party’s Central Committee.
He was arrested on Thursday when he arrived at Beijing’s airport, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
He was last seen in public at a meeting this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as part of a Chinese delegation led by Vice-Premier Han Zheng, the paper said, citing footage from state broadcaster CCTV on Wednesday.
Reported and translated by Alim Seytoff for RFA's Uyghur Service. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.