China’s former Xinjiang governor Nur Bekri facing corruption probe
Energy chief – one of few high-ranking Uygur officials and once seen as a rising star – was in the Chinese delegation at meeting with Vladimir Putin this week
China’s energy chief and former governor of its far west region of Xinjiang has been placed under investigation, the country’s top anti-corruption agency announced on Friday morning.
Nur Bekri, director of the National Energy Administration (NEA), was suspected of a “serious violation of discipline and law” – a term that could refer to anything from corruption to political disloyalty – according to a terse statement by the National Supervisory Commission (NSC).
Bekri is one of very few ethnic Uygur officials appointed at his level in the Chinese government. 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, according to footage from state broadcaster CCTV on Wednesday.
Han’s visit to Russia concluded on Tuesday before he began another trip to Singapore on Wednesday.
Bekri is understood to have been taken away from Beijing airport on his arrival there on Thursday.
The 57-year-old became one of the country’s youngest ministerial-level officials when he was appointed governor of Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, the region’s second most powerful position, in 2008.
A year later, in July 2009, deadly clashes broke out in Urumqi, the region’s capital, between ethnic Han and Uygur groups, resulting in 197 deaths, according to official figures.
Bekri had directed accusations at Ilham Tohti, a former professor at Beijing’s Minzu University who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2014 for “inciting separatism”.
“He … had long colluded with overseas separatists, extensively preached separation and even advocated subversion,” Bekri told reporters in March 2014 while he was still the region’s governor.
“There is a separatist clan formed around him. The facts are clear and the evidence sound,” he said.
Accused by Bekri of colluding with overseas forces and preaching separatism, Tohti has since been given and nominated for numerous human rights awards in Europe for his advocacy of non-violent resistance in the region.
Bekri was appointed director of the National Energy Administration in 2014, and was at that point still seen as a political rising star, before hitting major political hurdles last year, beginning when he was surprisingly not invited to the National Party Congress of more than 2,000 of the Communist Party elite.
Having been one of the 205 full members of the Central Committee, comprising the party’s top leaders, between 2012 and 2017, Bekri lost his seat in the five-yearly reshuffle, which was unexpected as he had not reached retirement age or lost his ministerial title.
It is unclear what triggered the probe into Bekri and the NSC will not reveal any details until it has completed its investigation.
When he took over at the NEA the agency was still reeling from the demise of his predecessor Liu Tienan, who was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to life in prison. Several other senior officials from the agency also fell from disgrace around the same time.
Not long after Bekri left his post as governor of Xinjiang, the region in which he had been born and spent the first three decades of his career, it was targeted for a widespread anti-corruption campaign similar to those that had taken place across the country about a year earlier.
During the campaign, dozens of senior officials were sacked, including Bekri’s chief of staff in the regional government, Alimjan Mehmet Emin, and his deputy land chief Li Jianxin.