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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Tibet gets a 'strong willed' governor

January 19, 2010

BEIJING, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Tibet's new governor -- an ethnic Tibetan -- has
vowed to "oppose all attempts at succession" and put national unity as a top
priority.

Padma Choling, 58 and former vice chairman of the Tibetan regional
government since 2003, was elected unanimously by its members. Choling spent
17 years in the Chinese army before entering politics in 1986.

He replaces Qiangba Puncog, 63, who was the eighth person to hold the
governorship since the Tibet Autonomous Region was founded in 1965,
according to a report by the Beijing government-run Xinhua news agency.

During Choling's brief six-minute speech to the press he emphasized the
importance of improving people's welfare and maintaining social stability
among all the ethnic groups in Tibet. He said it was a "heavy
responsibility" being governor but "I have the determination and confidence
to live up to everyone's expectations."

Choling will have no greater expectations placed upon him than those of the
Communist Party of China. This month the party placed him deeper within its
inner circle when he was appointed as a deputy secretary of Tibet's regional
committee of the CPC.

As top man in Tibet, Choling will have to ensure continuation of Beijing's
carrot-and-stick approach to persuade ordinary Tibetans they can prosper
under central communist rule.

He must also wield a heavy hand when necessary to dissuade Tibetans from
protesting in favor of succession as happened in March 2008. Street marches
led by Buddhist monks protesting against China's rule turned violent and
spread across Tibet.

Beijing's official body count was 19, but Tibetan exiles said up to 100 were
likely killed by Chinese police and military forces.

To possibly avoid any repetitions of the 2008 riots, the Xinhua article,
called a "Special Report on Tibet," focused on introducing Choling as "firm
and strong-willed" and "a man of valor."

The article quotes a local journalist saying Choling "looks stern, but if
you get closer to him, you'll find he's an amiable person. He's
straightforward and always gives explicit answers to questions."

The journalist said Choling "spent two sleepless nights" after the major
earthquake that hit Damxung county, just outside the capital Lhasa, in
October 2008.

"Padma Choling worked those two nights in a tent that served as the
emergency rescue headquarters," he said. "He, too, didn't sleep and his eyes
were red and swollen. He told me the residents were scared and in desperate
need of information, and pressed us to produce good stories."

Choling's election win comes a day after the regional treasury announced the
equivalent of around $337 million would be injected into Tibet "to improve
the quality of people's lives this year," the Xinhua report noted. "The
amount was 38.6 percent higher than last year.

The money will go to job creation, boost pensions, improve medical services
and "build affordable homes for the poor and provide food and shelter for
the homeless children and beggars."

The article cited many improvements made by the communists but also how much
more open the government is to having Tibetans run the region. A major focus
of protest by Tibetans has been the increased migration of Han Chinese from
around China. They landed top business and political jobs and generally
diluted the Tibetan culture and way of life, some Tibetans have complained.

The Xinhua article noted that "at city and county levels, officials of
Tibetan or other ethnic groups account for 86.4 percent."

Tibetans make up more than 70 percent of all deputies to the regional
parliament and political advisory bodies. "Most of them are from local
peasants and herders' families but have obtained a global vision."

Last year Beijing also announced that within five years it would train 600
people for senior jobs in medicine, science and technology, economics,
culture, tourism and environmental protection.

But the most powerful official in Tibet remains local Communist Party chief
Zhang Qingli, also a former military officer. This suggests that China sees
Tibet -- a resource-rich, mountainous region bordering India, Nepal,
Pakistan and Myanmar -- as an issue of military control, a report by the
British Broadcasting Corp. said.

China also continues to be annoyed by Western hospitality towards Tibet's
most famous Buddhist monk, the Dali Lama, now living in exile in India.

Tibet has been, and looks set to remain, a sensitive issue for many Western
governments as they balance their criticism of Chinese human-rights abuses
and their desire for an economic dialogue.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this month that the United States
will continue to support the Dalai Lama, as well as sell arms to Taiwan.
However, the United States will also make all efforts to engage China in a
way that their bilateral relationship "doesn't go off the rails when we have
differences of opinion."

Beijing has openly criticized the arms-to-Taiwan sale issue.

President Barack Obama was himself heavily criticized at home when he
postponed a meeting with the Dalai Lama until after he had visited Chinese
leaders in Beijing in November 2009.
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