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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Tibetan becomes new Lhasa Party Secretary; updates on leadership in Tibetan areas and the current climate in Lhasa

December 19, 2011

13 December, 2011
International Campaign for Tibet

The appointment of a Tibetan, Che Dalha (Chinese: Qizhala), to the politically important position of Party Secretary of Lhasa Municipality (Xinhua, November 16) re-establishes a convention of ethnic Tibetans holding this post although it does not signal any broader shift in policy. While Che Dalha’s entire career has been spent in a Tibetan region of Yunnan Province, and while he is regarded by some in Yunnan as alert to issues facing Tibetans, there are no expectations among sources that he has any intention of championing Tibetan grievances.

Meng Jianzhu, China’s Minister for Public Security, visited Kirti Monastery in late November, according to a posting on the Ministry’s web site. The report on the visit made no mention of the nine self-immolations to have taken place in and around the monastery, and instead focused on Meng Jianzhu’s expressions of support and sympathy to police officers for the physical difficulties associated with working at altitude in Tibet.

Zhu Weiqun, Executive Deputy Director of the United Front Work Department – the Party body that largely oversees Tibet policy – warned again of a “long-term and protracted” “struggle” against the “Dalai clique” on a visit to Lhasa last week during the continued crackdown.

New Tibet Autonomous Region Party Secretary Chen Quanguo said that monks would be brought into the social services and welfare net, by saying that monks can expect pensions and benefits. The incorporation of monks into the welfare net may be another area in which the autonomy of monasteries in Tibetan areas is eroded. 


in details

Che Dalha appointed Party Secretary of Lhasa Municipality

Che Dalha was announced in the Chinese official press in Lhasa on November 18 to have replaced Qin Yizhi as Party Secretary of Lhasa Municipality. Qin, a Han Chinese cadre who had been in the post since September 2006, has apparently completed a routine five-year posting for high-ranking Party positions. In the current political climate in Tibet and China, Che Dalha’s appointment is highly unlikely to be intended by the Chinese authorities to signal a shift in China’s political profile in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) or in Greater Tibet.

Lhasa Municipality is a jurisdiction of seven county-level administrations an entire Party and governmental tier below the TAR; therefore, while Che Dalha is the Party Secretary of Lhasa Municipality, he is still significantly junior in status to the recently appointed TAR Party Secretary, Chen Quanguo. Nevertheless, given the cultural and political importance of Lhasa to all Tibetans, it is notable that a Tibetan official should be appointed to the top Party position there.

Prior to November 2010, Che Dalha’s entire career had been spent in Dechen (Chinese: Diqing) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (TAP) in Yunnan Province, part of the Tibetan region of Kham. Che Dhala was head of the Dechen TAP government when the Dalai Lama’s Special Envoys visited the region in 2003, and is likely therefore to be aware of the Dalai Lama’s aspirations for the Tibetan people. According to a source close to ICT with strong family ties to the area, Che Dhala is well-regarded in Dechen for his successes in overseeing rapid economic development in the region while also remaining an advocate for the promotion of the Tibetan language and other facets of Tibetan culture.

It could be speculated that the relative social and political calm in Dechen TAP marked Che Dhala out as a capable and politically reliable Tibetan official whose skills could be utilized in the more challenging political climate of Lhasa. However, the same source who noted Che Dhala is well-regarded in Dechen also notes that he has been through many years of training in Beijing, and states that he is extremely unlikely to take Tibetans’ concerns into special consideration just because he himself is Tibetan.

Che Dalha was first appointed to a position in the TAR in November 2010 when he was installed as head of the TAR United Front Work Department (UFWD) – an influential organization within the Party with offices at every level of government in the TAR that is broadly responsible for instilling ideological orthodoxy among Party and government workers. Nothing in his previous work experience suggests he was known as an enforcer of Party discipline, while the shortness of his tenure at the UFWD further suggests the post was used as a brief stepping stone for acclimatizing himself to Lhasa’s political environment before assuming the post of Party Secretary.

The appointment of a Tibetan to the position Party Secretary marginally redresses what had become a glaring lack of senior Tibetan officials in Tibet. Soon after Qin Yizhi’s appointment in September 2006, New York-based Human Rights Watch published research indicating that there were fewer Tibetan officials on the Chinese Communist Party’s Lhasa Municipality Party Committee than at any time since 1966, and that Qin Yizhi was the first non-Tibetan official to hold the post of Lhasa Party Secretary since 1980 – his seven predecessors were all Tibetan. (China: Fewer Tibetans on Lhasa's Key Ruling Body - Lowest Representation Since 1966)

While several Tibetans have held the most senior government position in the TAR – including the current incumbent TAR Governor Pema Trinley – none have held the far more senior post of TAR Party Secretary.

There is nothing in any of the available official sources to suggest that Che Dhala’s appointment represents any kind of policy-led attempt to shift the ethnic balance in Lhasa Municipality’s Party structures back towards greater Tibetan representation. Neither is there any indication yet of where Qin Yizhi is likely to transferred; official reports state only that he is no longer serving as Lhasa Party Secretary while he apparently retains his position as a member of the TAR Standing Committee, which strongly suggests he is likely to stay on in the TAR in some capacity.

Che Dalha’s post as Director of the TAR UFWD is filled by Gonpo Tashi, a Tibetan cadre from Nagchu (Chinese: Naqu) in the TAR, who also served as Party Secretary of Lhasa Municipality from 2003 to 2006 – preceding Qin Yizhi – and who was then appointed to the TAR Party Committee. 

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