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Politics

China to prosecute top-ranking Uighur official for corruption

Nur Bekri, then-chairman of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, attends a news conference during the annual session of the National People's Congress in Beijing March 2010.   © Reuters

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

The decision comes after authorities launched an investigation in September into Bekri, who as governor between 2008-2014 held the second-highest position of power in the region behind party secretary.

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

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said in a statement that Bekri obstructed the investigations and did not tell the truth during the probe.

It said the 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 demanded the provision of luxury sedans and chauffeur services to his family members, and received bribes.

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

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

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.

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