Former top Tibet official under probe for corruption

Tibetans take to social media to welcome the move in a rare expression of public opinion.
By Pelbar for RFA Tibetan
Former top Tibet official under probe for corruption Wu Yingjie, Communist Party secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, attends a group discussion session held on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China's National People's Congress in the Tibet Hall of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 6, 2019.
Mark Schiefelbein/AP

The Chinese Communist Party’s former top boss in Tibet is being investigated for “severe violations of discipline and law,” according to a statement from China’s anti-corruption body, using a euphemism commonly used to describe corruption. 

Wu Yingjie, former party secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region, is one of several top officials recently dismissed from the Chinese Communist Party amid a crackdown on officials past and present who have engaged in graft. 

The move was praised by Tibetans on Chinese social media in a rare display of public opinion about such measures in China.

“It is very good that this man has been arrested,” said one person. “This is good news for Tibetans,” said another. 

“This enemy of the Tibetans has been captured and it will eliminate harm from the Tibetan people,” said a third.

In 2022, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Wu, 67, for his policies in Tibet that “involved serious human rights abuse, including extrajudicial killings, physical abuse, arbitrary arrests, and mass detentions” in the far-western region.

Additional abuses cited included forced sterilization, coerced abortion, restrictions on religious and political freedoms, and the torture of prisoners.

Wu, who now serves on the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, is the first former party secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, or TAR, to be placed under investigation and the eighth ministerial-level official to face a probe since the Communist Party’s National Congress in 2022. 

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the National Supervisory Commission announced the investigation on June 16.   

Other officials under investigation include Dong Yunhu, chief of the Shanghai legislature; Sun Zhigang, a former medical reform official; Han Yong, former chairman of the Shaanxi Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference; Gou Zhongwen, former sports minister; Tang Yijun, former justice minister; Tang Renjian, agriculture minister; and Li Yuefeng,  executive vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League.

Tibetans react

Tibetans inside Tibet took to Chinese social media to express their scorn for Wu Yingjie, known for his crackdowns and repressive policies, a source inside Tibet told Radio Free Asia on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. 

More than 760 comments appeared on a WeChat channel in response to a story about Wu’s investigation, all expressing support for the probe.

Members of the Tibetan community in Belgium hold a demonstration to mark the celebration of the 57th Tibetan Uprising Day in front of the European Union headquarters in Brussels, March 10, 2016. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)

But at least one activist predicted the investigation would do nothing to change the plight of Tibetans.

“Despite Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s investigation of  Wu Yingjie and other officials as part of the nation’s anti-corruption campaign, there will be no positive impact on Tibet and its related issues,” said Sangay Kyap, a Tibetan rights analyst.

Shortly after Wu was promoted to party secretary in 2016, he issued a statement stressing the need for officials to “expand positive propaganda” and to “thoroughly expose and criticize” the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

Wu also urged officials to “eliminate the negative influence” of the Dalai Lama’s use of religion and to guide believers to treat religion rationally.

Under President Xi Jinping, Wu also intensified repressive measures in Tibet, including the establishment of Chinese-run boarding schools with a curriculum focused on the Chinese language that undermines Tibetan culture and language, said Bawa Kelsang Gyaltsen, representative of the Office of Tibet in Taiwan.

“Wu Yingjie had been the CCP party secretary for the region, implementing severe and oppressive policies in Tibet for over 20 years,” he said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

Another official, Jiang Jie, 58, a former senior political advisor in the TAR, was also indicted on charges of taking bribes by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate following an investigation, the body announced on June 14.

1_ENG_TIB_CCP PROBE_06172024.3.jpg
Jiang Jie is shown in a Jan. 17, 2024, post on X. (@globaltimesnews via X)

Prosecutors in Tianjin allege that Jiang, who is also a former vice chairman of the TAR’s Regional Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, misused his various positions, including serving as mayor of Dongying in Shandong province and deputy head of the regional government, to unlawfully gain advantages for others in exchange for significant sums of money and valuables.

Xinjiang official expelled

In a related development, Li Pengxin, a former deputy secretary of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the region north of Tibet, has been expelled from the Communist Party and dismissed from public office for “serious violations of Party discipline and laws,” official Chinese media reported Monday.

An investigation found that Li, 63, had lost his ideals and convictions, was dishonest about his problems, accepted money and valuables, took advantage of his former position to seek benefits for others, and was suspected of accepting bribes, according to a statement issued Monday by China’s anti-corruption body and the National Commission of Supervision.

1_ENG_TIB_CCP PROBE_06172024.2.jpg
Li Pengxin is shown in a June 17, 2024, post on X. (@PD China via X)

When Li was deputy secretary in Xinjiang from September 2016 to July 2021, he oversaw a crackdown on Uyghur educators, sending them to prison 

At a meeting of party cadres in 2017, Li announced that prominent Uyghur scholar Tashpolat Teyip had been removed and replaced as president of Xinjiang University. 

Afterwards, Teyip disappeared from public view, leading Uyghurs to believe he had been detained.

Uyghurs interviewed by RFA in 2018, after news about his disappearance came to light, said they believed Teyip was removed amid an unprecedented ideological purge in Xinjiang against so-called “two-faced” Uyghur officials. The term is used by authorities to describe Uyghurs who do not willingly follow directives and exhibit signs of disloyalty.

Additional reporting and translation by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan and Alim Seyoff for RFA Uyghur. Edited by Tenzin Pema, Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.


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