Chinese Court Sentences Former National Official and Xinjiang Governor to Life Imprisonment for Accepting $11 Million in Bribes

On December 3, the South China Morning Post reported that on December 2, the Shenyang Intermediate People’s Court in Liaoning Province sentenced the former Governor of Xinjiang Province and former director of the Chinese National Energy Administration (NEA), Nur Bekri, to life imprisonment after Bekri admitted to accepting more than ¥79 million (equivalent to $11.2 million) in bribes between 1998 and 2018.

Bekri, reportedly one of China’s most senior Uighur officials, said that he would not appeal the sentence.  The Xinhua News Agency characterized Bekri’s sentence as “lenient,” because Bekri “had confessed to crimes that prosecutors had not known about and volunteered to return some of his ill-gotten gains.”

The Morning Post also reported that soon after Bekri left his post as Xinjiang Governor to accept a higher-level position in Beijing in 2014, “a widespread anti-corruption campaign” ensued that led to the firing of dozens of senior officials, including Bekri’s chief of staff Alimjan Mehmet Emin and Bekri’s deputy land chief Li Jianxin.

After Bekri rose to head the NEA in 2018, that same year the National Supervisory Commission (NSC) announced that Bekri himself had been placed under investigation.  At that time, the NSC declared that Bekri was suspected of a “serious violation of discipline and law.”  Subsequently, in 2019 the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) announced that Bekri had been expelled from the Communist Party and accused him “of abusing his position to live a “lavish life.”  The CCDI stated  that Bekri had engaged in “family-style corruption,” involving illegal acceptance of property directly or through his relatives and demands of luxury cars for his relatives, as well as participating in lavish banquets and accepting expensive gifts from those seeking favors.

N.B.:  Bekri’s case in one sense is typical of the severe sentences that former Chinese officials and Communist Party leaders have been receiving for their participation in longstanding corruption.  The timing of the sentence, however, may be significant, because it occurs in the midst of what numerous media have reported as the Chinese government’s continuing harsh repression of the Uighur population in Xinjiang.  While most of that repression is directed at the mass of Uighurs in Xinjiang, Bekri’s sentence may serve an additional purpose of implying that even Uighur leaders are untrustworthy and unfaithful to the Party and the Chinese people.

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