China to prosecute top-ranking Uighur official for corruption

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s anti-corruption watchdog said on Saturday it would prosecute Nur Bekri, one of the highest-ranking ethnic Uighur officials in the country, over allegations of graft during to his time as governor of Xinjian.

Nur Bekri, Chairman of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, attends a news conference during the annual session of China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), in Beijing March 7, 2010. Picture taken March 7, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said in a statement that Bekri obstructed an investigation launched in September and had failed to tell the truth.

Bekri was governor of Xinjiang between 2008-2014, holding the second-highest position of power in the western region behind the Communist party secretary.

Bekri, who until December was director of China’s National Energy Administration (NEA), could not be reached for comment.

The anti-corruption agency said its investigation had found that he took advantage of his position to obtain “a huge amount of wealth”, either directly or through relatives.

He also allegedly received bribes and demanded the provision of luxury sedans and chauffeur services for his family members.

Bekri “led an extravagant life, was morally corrupt, and used his power for sex,” the statement alleged.

The NEA said in a statement on Sunday the struggle against corruption in its administration remained complex and that it needed to learn the lessons from the Bekri case.

His prosecution comes as the Chinese government ramps up surveillance and suppression of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang, a group it has long considered prone to religious extremism.

Researchers estimate that as many as 1.5 million Uighurs are in detention centers, where they are subject to political indoctrination programs.

The Chinese government has tried to counter this, saying the Uighurs are being sent to vocational training centers.

Bouts of ethnic violence took place over the course of Bekri’s tenure between the Uighurs in Xinjiang and the Han Chinese national ethnic majority that led to the deaths of hundreds of people.

As governor, Bekri supported policies that restricted religious practices of the Muslim Uighurs, who make up a majority of the overall Uighur population.

He was also a proponent of educating Xinjiang’s Turkic-speaking school children in Mandarin.

Reporting by Josh Horwitz; Editing by Clelia Oziel & Simon Cameron-Moore