A career law-and-order official has been tapped to run a Tibetan area at the center of protests against Chinese rule, and is calling for his subordinates to take a hard line against unrest while trying to raise local living standards.
Liu Zuoming (劉作明) was appointed Communist Party secretary of Sichuan Province’s Aba Autonomous Prefecture over the weekend. It is not clear whether his transfer was prompted by the latest unrest or part of a regular rotation of officials. His predecessor in Aba, Shi Jun (侍俊), was promoted to Sichuan police chief.
In a speech posted on the Aba government Web site, Liu told officials on Saturday that they “must correctly handle the relationship between stability and development. There can be not the slightest relaxation on stability, nor the slightest paralysis or laxity.”
Liu, who is 54 and a member of China’s Han Chinese majority, spent the past three decades working his way up the law enforcement bureaucracy in Sichuan and headed the province’s justice bureau until his new appointment. In those positions, he would have been at the forefront of efforts to combine pro-growth policies and improved social welfare with strict policing and, in Tibetan areas, controls on religion.
Aba, a sprawling region that rises from the Sichuan plain up steep valleys to the Tibetan plateau, saw some of the most violent protests in a rebellion against Chinese rule in 2008. Since then the government has poured in investment to boost the region’s economy and heavy security to prevent unrest, though protests — and self-immolations by monks and nuns — have ticked up over the past year.
Upcoming Tibetan New Year’s celebrations appear poised to bring more bloodshed to the troubled region, the head of Tibet’s government-in-exile said on Tuesday, warning that China had sealed off the regions ahead of a crackdown.
Already facing nearly two dozen self-immolations, many by Buddhist monks and nuns calling for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama, China is sending thousands of extra security forces to Tibetan areas to prepare for expected protests.
“They have sealed off Tibet,” Lobsang Sangay said during an interview.
Celebrations for the Feb. 22 Tibetan New Year, as well as the March 10 anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising, are very likely to bring Tibetans onto the streets, he said.
However, with the region closed to outsiders — foreign tourists have been ordered to leave and Western reporters are effectively barred — it will be almost impossible to know the reality of the situation.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) on Tuesday defended China’s policies on Tibet, saying the government respected traditional culture and freedom of religious belief. He said China has invested heavily in Tibet and will continue to do so.
Tibetan areas of western China have faced spiraling unrest in recent months, amid the wave of self-immolations and a series of sometimes-bloody protests.
On Monday, a teenage monk set himself on fire in Aba, the London-based International Campaign for Tibet said. The monk was beaten by security forces as they put out the flames, the rights group said. His condition was not known.
Beijing has blamed outsiders and extremists for trying to incite violence or undermine China, while Sangay and other Tibetan leaders say the self-immolations reflect an increasingly desperate population unable to express themselves any other way.