It’s been almost a year since Communist Party rising star Chen Quanguo took the reins of Xinjiang, China’s restive Uygur heartland, and police jobs have seen an explosive surge. In the past 11 months, more security staff jobs have been advertised than the combined total over the last decade, latest research has revealed.
The far western frontier publicly has advertised more than 84,000 security-related positions since September 2016, nearly 50 per cent more than it did in the past 10 years, according to a study by Adrian Zenz, an expert on the region at the European School of Culture and Theology in Germany.
The last four months of 2016 saw some 30,000 security jobs advertised, compared with about 1,600 over the year’s earlier months, and the number soared past 53,000 in the first seven months of this year, Zenz found. Data gleaned from government postings on the internet drove his study.
“The massive peak really came with Chen Quanguo … and is directly related to the establishment of the convenience police stations,” Zenz said, referring to the sprawling net of neighbourhood-based police depots that have cropped up across the region.
Chen, formerly the party boss of neighbouring Tibet, was transferred to rule Xinjiang late last August and has since ramped up security and surveillance by applying policies he had deployed in Tibet, another politically sensitive region where ethnic tension had flared.
In Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uygur ethnic minority, hundreds of people have been killed in the past few years in violence between Uygurs and the ethnic majority Han. The government blames the bloodshed on Islamist extremists and separatists, but Uygur advocates say it is the government’s repression of religious freedom and unfair ethnic policies that has fuelled resentment and savagery.
Seen as effective in quelling tension in Tibet with his uncompromising policies, Chen was transferred to Xinjiang to replace its former party boss Zhang Chunxian, who adopted a softer approach to the ethnic tension.
One of Chen’s signature security initiatives is the massive construction of what the authorities called “convenience police stations”, which Chen had first introduced in Tibet in 2011. Now in Xinjiang, thousands of one- or two-storey concrete structures are being built across cities and rural areas – often only…