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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."

Leadership shifts in Tibet indicate Party priorities of military control and 'stability'

January 24, 2010

ICT report
International Campaign for Tibet
January 22, 2010

A former officer in the People’s Liberation Army,
Pema Trinley (Chinese transliteration: Baima
Chilin)  has been appointed Governor of the Tibet
Autonomous Region (TAR), while former Chairman
Jampa Phuntsog (Chinese: Xiangba Pingcuo) has
taken early resignation from the post. The
changes were announced at a routine meeting of
the regional legislature in Lhasa, and appear to
have been tailored to accommodate the retirement
of Legqog (Chinese: Lieque) as Chairman of the
legislature, who has reached the mandatory
retirement age of 65. Leadership shifts in Tibet
are closely observed for signs that the Party may
be seeking to hold officials to account for
policy failures that led to widespread protests
across Tibet from March 2008 onwards, but there
is no evidence in this case that the changes
signal any new approach on policy or target
particular individuals. Zhang Qingli, appointed
in May 2006 as Party Secretary of the TAR,
remains in place as the top Party boss.

Pema Trinley, an Executive Deputy Chairman of the
TAR since 2003, served in the People’s Liberation
Army based in Tibet from 1969 to 1986, a military
career which could be as an important credential
for the continued implementation of harsh
security policies in the region that have become
the norm for the Party in handling Tibet. These
policies have only served to deepen tensions and
unrest. His public profile had been steadily
rising over the past year and a half, beginning
soon after the protests of March 2008 when he was
more frequently seen by the side of senior
regional leaders. He was also included among the
Chinese delegation that met with the envoys of
the Dalai Lama in November 2008 during the eighth
round of the Sino-Tibetan dialogue.

The outgoing government Chairman, Jampa Phuntsog,
has been appointed Chairman of the regional
People's Congress -- the TAR's legislative
assembly, replacing Legqog. Jampa Phuntsog was
typically presented as the Tibetan face of the
leadership to groups of foreign media visiting
Lhasa, lecturing them on the “distortions”
perpetrated by the “Dalai clique” and upholding
the Party line that the Dalai Lama was
responsible for the March 2008 protests in Tibet.
Pema Trinley has already met with groups of
foreign journalists in his capacity as Executive
Deputy Chairman, and is likely to continue to do so now he is full Chairman.

Policy on Tibet is set by Party leaders in
Beijing and implemented in the TAR through the
hardline Party Secretary Zhang Qingli. Appointed
in 2006, Zhang Qingli is likely to remain Party
Secretary for another five years at least, when
he will then complete the preferred maximum
tenure of 10 years for provincial-level Party
Secretaries. Pema Trinley has also been appointed
as one of a dozen Deputy Party Secretaries within
the TAR Party apparatus. Since the establishment
of the TAR in 1965, a Tibetan has never held the
most senior post in the region, that of Communist Party Secretary.

Pema Trinley's military experience could be seen
as complementing the appointment of Li Zhao as
both Director and Party Secretary of the regional
Public Security Bureau (PSB) soon after the
protests of March 2008. Li Zhao had previously
headed the branch of the national PSB responsible
for internet surveillance, and therefore brings
experience of information control to the TAR to
tie in with Pema Trinley's experience of military
control. In comments reported to the official
press, Pema Trinley said last week: "Stability is
of overwhelming importance. We will firmly oppose
all attempts at secession, safeguard national
unification and security, and maintain unity
among different ethnic groups in Tibet." (Xinhua, January 15, 2010.)

It was also announced last week that in Qinghai
province to the north of the TAR, which includes
most of Amdo and parts of Kham (Tibetan
provinces), Ms Song Xiuyan stood down as Chairman
of the Qinghai Government to become Party
Secretary and Vice President of the All-China
Women's Federation in Beijing. (China Daily,
January 12, 2010.) Ms Song had been Governor of
Qinghai since 2005 – the only female provincial
governor in the PRC – but had held various
positions within the Party and government in
Qinghai since 1983, according to her official
biography. She has been replaced by Luo Huining
from Zhejiang province in the Chinese interior,
who has been a Deputy Party Secretary of Qinghai
since 2003, and who holds a PhD in economics.
Little else is publicly known about Luo.

Song Xiuyan is apparently as unpopular among many
Tibetans in Qinghai as Zhang Qingli is in the
TAR, and as Wang Lequan in the Xinjiang Uyghur
Autonomous Region, where he is the Party
Secretary. Like Zhang and Wang, Song is believed
to have strong political connections to Chinese
President Hu Jintao. According to one
well-informed Tibetan source from the area, Song
was publicly dismissive of Tibetan culture, an
attitude that was reflected in her policies in
Qinghai. According to the same source, she
publicly refused on several occasions to accept
khata, the white ceremonial scarves traditionally
offered as a blessing by Tibetan hosts when
welcoming guests. She has also on occasion
insisted that newly constructed government
buildings, including schools, be rebuilt if they
included traditional Tibetan features.

The public process of changing the various
positions within the TAR government began last
week, when both Legqog and Jampa Phuntsog
tendered their resignations to the legislative
assembly. Legqog also resigned from his various
senior positions within the Party, the most
important of which was his position as a Deputy
Party Secretary – that post was given to Pema
Trinley. However, Jampa Phuntsog did not resign
his position as a Deputy Party Secretary,
indicating he was likely to be installed into
another senior role towards the end of the week-long meeting in Lhasa.

At 62 years of age, Jampa Phuntsog is likely to
serve as Chairman of the regional People's
Congress for only three years before he too --
like the outgoing Legqog -- is expected to take
mandatory retirement. Jampa Phuntsog is not held
in high esteem by Tibetans due to his frequent
denunciations of the Dalai Lama, which have
contributed significantly to popular resentment
towards the Chinese authorities in Tibet. More
recently however, senior officials including
Jampa Phuntsog and Zhang Qingli appear to have
toned down public condemnation of the Dalai Lama.
Jampa Phuntsog is also remembered by many
Tibetans to have been a particularly zealous Red
Guard during the Cultural Revolution.

There has been speculation that Legqog was
seeking to express his Party allegiance by
donning a Mao suit during the meetings of the
legislature in Lhasa when his resignation was
announced last week -- all other senior leaders
were seen wearing western-style suits and ties.
It is possible that Legqog was mindful of his
options after retiring: Ragdi, who retired as
Chairman of the Regional People’s Congress in
2002, went on to be a Vice Chairman of the
National People’s Congress in Beijing, and
reportedly continues to exert considerable
influence behind the scenes in Lhasa.

Pema Trinley is a Khampa from the county of
Tingchen in Chamdo (Chinese: Changdu). The
Chinese government regards Chamdo as "a strategic
bridge between the Tibet Autonomous Region and
the neighboring provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and
Qinghai." (Tibet Daily, April 17, 2009.) The
region has been of particular strategic
importance to Beijing since the Communist
authorities gained control of central Tibet when
Chamdo, eastern Tibet’s provincial capital, fell
to the People’s Liberation Army on October 7,
1950. The Chinese authorities will mark the 60th
anniversary of Chamdo’s ‘liberation’ this year.

Pema Trinley, who has been responsible for
numerous pronouncements on security and social
stability since March 2008, made several visits
to Chamdo prefecture last year, indicating the
authorities' concerns about the continued level
of dissent and unrest in the area. Chamdo has
been described by the official media as the
‘frontline’ of the ‘patriotic education’
campaigns favored by the Chinese Communist Party
as a means of pre-empting further nationalist
protest in Tibet, and new measures have been
introduced over the past few months to counter
peaceful protests. Pema Trinley and other
officials have outlined the authorities’ new
emphasis on ‘security work’ in the region,
including the use of ‘vigilante’ squads, the
stepping up of military drilling, and the
imposition of more checkpoints to monitor people
arriving in and leaving the area. Despite the
harsher measures imposed, emphasis on ‘social
stability’ and Pema Trinley’s visits to the
region, protests continued to occur last year.
There were several confrontations between local
people and security forces in Jomda in Chamdo
during the summer months as Tibetans resisted
coercion to denounce the Dalai Lama, and Tibetans
in the area have also carried out a ‘farming
boycott,’ in which farmers refused to till the
fields in protest against the authorities. (ICT
report,
http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/determination-resist-repression-continues-%E2%80%98combat-ready%E2%80%99-chamdo-frontline-%E2%80%98patriotic-educa.)


During the eighth round of dialogue between
Chinese officials and the envoys of the Dalai
Lama in November 2008, Pema Trinley was
reportedly described by a senior Party official
also at the dialogue to be "the true
representative of the Tibetan people," and not the Dalai Lama.

Educated Tibetans who became aware of this news
through the state media responded in anonymous
blogs, with one writing in Chinese: "I can tell
you, United Front [the United Front Work
department is the Party branch that deals with
the dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s
representatives and the Chinese government], of
the six million Tibetans there is none who have
never heard of His Holiness, our Dalai Lama, and
there is none who do not believe in His Holiness,
our Dalai Lama from the bottom of their hearts.
Of course, that Pema Triling doesn't believe
because he has been forced into no longer being
truly Tibetan, he is just a dog waiting by the
gates of the United Front! He only dares bark a
few barks when the United Front tells him to bark
a few barks! And so, United Front, if you say a
dog is the "true representative" of we six
million Tibetans are you saying we can only be
represented by a ferocious dog called Pema
Triling? You truly insult us!" (ICT report, A Way
Forward for Tibet, ICT, November 20, 2009,
http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/a-way-forward-tibet-perspectives-inside-china.)


Press contact:
Kate Saunders
Communications Director, International Campaign for Tibet
email: press@savetibet.org
tel: +44 (0) 7947 138612
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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