China's change of leadership in Xinjiang could indicate greater emphasis on economic development in the region, experts said, although its security crackdown targeting minority Muslims is unlikely to see a significant change in direction.

On Saturday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported that Chen Quanguo, whose heavy handed security campaign in the far-western region drew international sanctions, had been replaced after five years.

Chen, 66 and a member of China's Politburo, a top policymaking body, was succeeded as Xinjiang Communist Party secretary by Ma Xingrui, who was governor of Guangdong. Analysts said Ma's stewardship of Guangdong, China's largest provincial economy, may point to why he was chosen.