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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Preparing for Troubles. Streamlining leadership in Tibetan regions of the PRC

March 5, 2012

02. Mar 2012

While personnel changes in the People's Republic of China (PRC) are generally scrutinised against the backdrop of a promotion/demotion duality, a pattern inherited from Cold War times, the recent arrival of Liu Zuoming as new Party Secretary of Ngaba (Aba) prefecture as a replacement for Shi Jun is in fact an exercise in streamlining the judicial, executive and security departments of the regime by stirring up and re-energising cadres in expectation of a possible protraction and/or geographical expansion of the current crisis in Aba and surrounding areas. There were similar moves in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in late 2011 where additionally a trend to promote Tibetans with long records of loyalty to positions further up the hierarchy was also observed, probably in order to confer legitimacy on the regime. There are also signs of stronger coordination in security issues between the TAR and other Tibetan regions. These developments and recent sackings of cadres confirm that the Chinese leadership regards the maintenance of law and order and the functionality of the security apparatus, rather than mitigation, as the best strategy to cope with the current crisis.

On Saturday 11 February 2012, 54 Communist Party delegates plus seven leaders, including the Party Secretaries of Ngaba (Chin: Aba) county and Dzamthang (Chin: Rangtang) county, met for the 10th Ngaba Party Congress meeting in Barkham (Chin: Ma'erkang). Among the speakers at the meeting were Wu Zegang, a Deputy Party Secretary and Head of Government; Wang Fuyao, Director of the People's Congress; Yang Kening, Chairman of CPPCC; and Gu Yunlong, a Deputy Party Secretary.

The main objective of the meeting was the nomination of Liu Zuoming as new Party Secretary of Ngaba prefecture. He replaces Shi Jun, who became Sichuan Provincial Public Security Bureau Chief and Sichuan Provincial Government Assistant, a support role to the Governor and Deputy Governors, and a stepping stone to a top job like Deputy Governor in the near future.

Very little was known about Liu Zuoming prior to this appointment. The biographical details that were available for both Liu and Shi do not indicate that either of them have had any experience with ethnic minorities or any autonomous regions within the PRC before their respective appointments in Ngaba. In addition, while Liu has a legal background, Shi seems not to have had much if thing in the way of a specific professional background. It appears he has been a generalist throughout his career until becoming head of the Sichuan Public Security Bureau (PSB).

The personnel change was formally announced by the head of the Party Organisation Department of the prefecture at a large meeting of prefectural Party & Government officials that also took place in Barkham on the same day(1). As the third event of the day, there was also a small-scale press conference held by Shi and Liu.

The main ob Various international press organs reported comments made by delegates demanding a resolute fight against 'splittism' and condemning alleged attempts by foreigners to weaken China's unity, which content-wise echoed recent speeches by the TAR's Party Chief Chen Quanguo and others in Lhasa, as the self-immolation crisis has unfolded. In contrast to this rhetoric, however, there was none of the usual castigation of the Dalai Lama, nor were there the normal accusations that he was the mastermind behind recent events. The main thrust of the remarks by Liu Zuoming was subtle and there were only occasionally explicit warnings to all cadres in Ngaba prefecture not to slacken their vigilance or ignore their duties if they expected to keep their positions. The message in Ngaba is therefore essentially the same as that delivered in Lhasa where about ten officials so far have been named, shamed and booted out, most but not all of them ethnic Chinese (Han).

The nomination of Liu Zuoming has parallels to events in the TAR, where, in late November 2011, a series of personnel decisions took place. Most of the attention was then directed at the nomination of Che Dalha  (aka Chodak, Qi Zhala) to Party Secretary of Lhasa in replacement of an ethnic Chinese, creating a situation in which both the Party secretary and the mayor are now Tibetan. This was widely reported, but other singular moves attracted less attention, in particular the nomination of TAR Chief Justice, Norbu Dhondup, also a Tibetan, to another, additional position as Party Secretary of Chamdo prefecture, replacing an ethnic Chinese. This appears odd because the post ranks lower in the hierarchy. But Norbu was also being made a member of the TAR Party Standing Committee (a very high position normally incompatible with the rank of prefectural level Party Secretary). According to all available information, Norbu Dhondup, a native of Lhoka (and hence not expected to be involved in local cadres networks in Chamdo), still currently combines the positions of prefectural Party Secretary in Chamdo with that of TAR Chief Justice.

The fear of the senior authorities in Lhasa, that the continuing troubles linked to self-immolations in the Tibetan part of Sichuan might leak into the TARÂ through neighboring Chamdo prefecture and from there (or directly) to Lhasa, seem to explain best the unusual personnel moves. In anticipation of such a scenario where mass arrests and stricter controls might be deemed necessary, having an ethnic Tibetan Chief Justice (with a public security background) in charge would avoid impressions of an ethnic bias while facilitating the imposition of law and order. The recent dismissal of officials for alleged dereliction of duty and lack of proper vigilance in Chamdo(2) seems to confirm this. Besides, holding the position of Chief Justice is an advantage because as Party Secretary, he makes the decisions on the dismissals.

Coming back to Ngaba in Sichuan, a relatively large number of arrests is on record and the near future is likely to bring severe consequences for local cadres deemed to have failed or performed unsatisfactorily in their duties. In this context, Liu Zuoming's judicial background promises to work in a similar way for the Sichuan Party organisation as Norbu Dhondup's in Chamdo. That his predecessor is now in charge of the public security apparatus in Sichuan facilitates Liu Zuoming's task, who presumably will give priority to and make available all PSB and PAP resources requested in Ngaba. This could be at the expense of Kardze prefecture, which hypothetically might demand the same resources that could lead to a competition in that regard between the two prefectures. Both Liu Zuoming and Shi Jun also have good relationships with the top Party leaders in Sichuan which promises a smooth running of affairs, something particularly important in times of crisis.

Relevant to both the TAR and Sichuan deciding to send a judicial professional to a troubled area is that about four weeks before the move, Chen Quanguo flew from Lhasa to Chengdu where he and the Sichuan Party Secretary, Liu Qibao, signed an elaborate 'Strategic Cooperative Framework Agreement'. It pledged liaison and close communication with each other on a number of fronts including all alleged Dalai Lama/exile Tibetan efforts to 'infiltrate and split the country'.


1: The meeting also discussed the 18th Party Congress in Beijing scheduled for autumn 2012 and recommended delegates for the event.

2: See TibetInfonet News Digest item:


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