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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

New Man Same Chair

January 24, 2010

By Bhuchung D. Sonam
January 16, 2010

Pema Thinley's (also called Padma Choling)
appointment as a governor of the so-called Tibet
Autonomous Region (TAR) under China is widely
reported by Reuters, BBC, The Strait’s Times and
many other news media around the world.

However, for Tibetans, inside Tibet and in exile,
the news came as just another regimented official
exchange of position in a carefully manufactured
show. Jampa Phuntsok (Chin. Qiangba Puncog), Pema
Thinley and others who apparently hold high
positions are mascots to show the world that
Tibetans are fairly represented and happy in the
Motherland. But in fact, they mostly do the
barking when Beijing raises a stick and wag their
tails when Beijing shows a bowl of chicken noodles.

The real decision-making power in Tibet is held
by Zhang Qingli, a Chinese and the local Party
boss. Zhang is a hardliner, who became infamous
for calling His Holiness the Dalai Lama “a wolf
in monk’s clothes, a devil with a human face."

Jampa Phuntsok, 62-years-old former governor, is
"three years shy of China's mandatory retirement
age for provincial governors," and has held the
position for six years since May 2003. His
replacement Thinley is 58 and has served for 17
years in the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Though Beijing is mute on the replacement, it
clearly indicates that Tibet ranks very high in
China's priorities. Hu Jintao, the current
Chinese president, who served as the Party
Secretary in Tibet and declared martial law there
in 1989, senses the usefulness of a man with a military background.

In the light of massive peaceful protests
throughout Tibet in 2008, and Beijing's brutal
crackdowns due to which over 200 lives were lost,
an appointment of a former PLA does not augur
well for Tibetans. This is a subtle way of saying
— dissenters will be dealt even more harshly.

The appointment may also have to do with the
recent Politburo's meeting on Tibet chaired by Hu
Jintao, during which, according to 9 Jan. 2010,
Tibet Daily, they reviewed issues regarding
economic development and long-term stability in
Tibet. In fact, this has been the basis of
Chinese policy towards the minority for a long
time — "that increased wealth brings increased
social order and allegiance to the source of that
wealth" i.e. the Communist Party of China.

However, according to some other sources,
Politburo also discussed putting more
restrictions on religion such as furthering the
on-going mandatory registration of religious
institutions and monks and nuns. Religion forms
the social backbone for Tibetan people.

Economic growth is, at least, what the new governor promises.

According to The Hindu newspaper, Thinley said --
[that] Tibet would target 12 percent GDP growth
this year, and increase spending on sectors
involving people’s livelihoods. The net per
capita income of farmers and herders is expected to top 4,000 yuan.”

Yet China’s promises about economic growth and
massive investment in Tibet are mirages for ordinary Tibetans.

A recent arrival from Tibet, who does not want
his name mentioned for fear of reprisal when he
goes back to Tibet, said that the investment and
contracts go to the Party cadres, their family
members and those with connections or Guan Xi.
“Ordinary people like us get nothing. Absolutely nothing,” he said.

Gongmeng Law Research Centre or Open Constitution
Initiative’s report on the root causes of 2008
large-scale protests in Tibet testifies the above
statement. The groundbreaking report said that a
“'deep-rooted' local power elite networks have
formed in many Tibetan areas, where it has become
routine for the local authorities to be
rent-seekers and for the administration to be
inefficient." Under the Neo-Leninist system, a
new class has formed, who are intimately linked
with the local Party elites and other vested
interest groups. The sole aim of this unholy
union is ‘to get rich by’ grabbing the money meant for the poor.

Thinley's claim about "net per capita income of
farmers and herders is expected to top 4,000 yuan
(which is roughly $750)" in the next year is
dismal. It is not much better than East Timor's
$500, which is one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world.

Thinley was also quoted saying that "stability is
of overwhelming importance," and that "[they]
will firmly oppose all attempts at secession," a
clear indication that the new man is up to the
job to crush dissents against the Party's rule.

China is excessively obsessed with Tibet and is
willing to go to any extent to avoid another
massive popular people’s protest. However, the
fundamental question that Beijing fails to
understand is that negotiation — and not
suppression — will solve this vexed issue.
Appointing someone with a military background as
a governor of Tibet will only deepen the chasm
between Tibetan people and Beijing.

The writer can be reached at
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
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