China sacks 32 Xinjiang officials engaged in organizing Mecca pilgrimage

China sacks 32 Xinjiang officials engaged in organizing Mecca pilgrimage

BEIJING: China has begun investigating a significant aspect of the lives of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, which concerns the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. It has sacked 32 officials for sending “unqualified people” on government organized tours to Mecca from the disturbed province.

Officials removed from their post include Aniwar Turdi, who was director of the pilgrimage affairs office under the Xinjiang Ethnic Affairs Committee. Two other important officials axed include Wang Xinzhong, head of public security bureau of Kizilsu prefecture and Yalikunjan Turdi, mayor of Artux, in Xinjiang.

More than 14,000 Chinese pilgrims went to Mecca on these government-organized trips last year. A much larger number of people in Xinjiang applied to be selected for the jorney resulting in a long waiting list, official sources said. But many of those who managed to get selected were not qualified because they were much below in the list.

These people were helped by officials, who abused their power by changing the list to cut waiting time for their relatives and others they favoured, investigators said. These officials in are now being investigated.

The officials, most of whom are in Kizilsu prefecture of China’s Northwest Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, have been accused of violating the Commuist Party’s discipline, abuse of power for personal gains and power-for-money deals, , according to anti-graft investigators.

He was transferred to the legal department with five other leading officials from the Kizilsu prefecture and Artux, the prefecture’s capital city.

The axed officials have also been accused of seeking and getting bribes and neglecting their duties about inspection and management of pilgrimage work, authorities said.

The regional government in Xinjiang has set up a political discipline inspection office to examine cases of misconduct by officials in religious affairs, which include irregulatiries in pilgrimages to Mecca. The office has handled 13 cases of officials trying to take advantage of pilgrims in the first eight months of 2014.

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