(TibetanReview.net, Jun20’22) – As it intensifies its Sinicization drive, China has appointed a Han Chinese as the party chief of its National Ethnic Affairs Commission for the second successive time, reported the scmp.com Jun 19, citing the commission’s website. The commission has previously always been headed by an ethnic minority until 2020, the report noted.
Having a minority in charge of the commission affirmed, even if only nominally, China’s long-standing ethnic minority model, in which they are supposed to be granted autonomy over their own affairs, the report noted. However, under President Xi Jinping, the emphasis has shifted to greater and more overt integration and homogenization.
The new chief, Pan Yue, 62, is famous for taking a tough stance on local interests in his previous role as the head of the country’s environmental protection bureau which was later upgraded to become China’s first Ministry for Environmental Protection in 2008.
The commission is responsible for drafting laws regarding the country’s policies towards its ethnic minority groups and implementing those laws and regulations.
Pan’s new appointment comes with the responsibility to place greater focus on the integration of the ethnic minorities of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) despite concerns about Beijing’s treatment of some such groups, the report noted, citing the case of Uyghurs in recent times.
The report noted that since 1954 and until 2020, the commission had been headed by officials from one of the PRC’s many ethnic minority groups, starting with Ulanhu, a renowned ethnic Mongol general whose name could be translated as the “red son of Communism”. It was later led by Hui, Uyghur, Korean and Mongol cadres.
The tradition was broken in 2020 under President Xi, when Chen Xiaojiang, an official from the party’s formidable anti-corruption body, was placed in charge, the report noted.
Pan’s new role will be to enforce Xi’s version of “forging a sense of community of the Chinese nation”, which calls for greater integration of members of ethnic minorities to put the interests of the Chinese nation first.
Pan is said to be best remembered by many as having led a fierce campaign to challenge polluters backed by local governments. In 2005 he halted 30 massive such projects that had failed to file proper environmental impact assessments, including a hydropower plant on the upper stretches of the Yangtze River by the China Three Gorges Corporation.
Pan’s appointment was announced as part of the preliminary reshuffles in the run up to the 20th five-yearly Party Congress later this year, which will see a major overhaul of the country’s top leadership, the report noted.
Pan is, however, not new to ethnic minority issues. After leaving the environment ministry in 2016, he has also worked for the Central Institute of Socialism and United Front Work Department, which manages relations with non-party bodies, the report noted.