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Zhu Weiqun visits Lhasa, under intense militarization

December 19, 2011

Zhu Weiqun, Executive Deputy Director of the UFWD – and head of the bureau within the UFWD with special responsibility for Tibet – visited Lhasa in early December, and addressed a meeting of most of the TAR’s senior Party and government officials.

Zhu has been closely involved with the Tibet issue since the early 1990s, and was even involved in some unknown capacity with the Panchen Lama dispute that resulted in the disappearance of the six-year old boy recognized by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama’s reincarnation – Gedhun Choekyi Nyima – and his replacement with the Chinese Communist Party’s candidate, Gyancain Norbu.

Zhu Weiqun is also a key member of the Chinese delegation that has met with representatives of the Dalai Lama on 10 occasions since negotiations between both sides re-started in 2002, and he also sits – with Meng Jianzhu among others – on the Central Tibet Work Coordination Working Group. (See ICT report, See ICT report, “Tibet at a Turning Point,” p. 114, August 2008.)

Zhu Weiqun is one of the highest-ranking officials in China to routinely speak to the national and international media on the issue of Tibet – albeit in very formulaic terms. For instance, speaking at the Chinese embassy in Brussels on December 12 during an ongoing visit to the EU, Zhu described EU criticisms of China’s policies in Tibet “irresponsible” at a time when closer economic cooperation is needed between China and the EU, and he criticized the decision by the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament in Brussels to invite Kalon Tripa Lobsang Sangay, the newly elected Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile, to address the committee. (“EU Criticism of China dismissed by Beijing,” December 12, 2011, New Europe.)

In comments reported in the Tibet Daily on December 6, Zhu said “The central government’s assessment [Chinese: dingxing] of the Dalai clique will not change, and the direction of the struggle against the Dalai clique will not change. Our struggle against the Dalai clique is long-term, protracted and complex, and sometimes it is very intense. […] We must deeply analyze new situations and new issues in upholding social stability and the struggle with the Dalai clique, relying closely on cadres and the masses of all nationalities to resolutely, quickly, decisively and thoroughly smash all attempts to disrupt Tibet’s stability and harm the unification of the motherland. […] To the greatest possible extent, we must unify patriotic religious personages, broadening the patriotic united front and bringing into play their positive role in promoting development and upholding stability, bringing many more people onto our side and many less people to the enemy’s side.”

Zhu’s visit comes at a time of sustained crackdown and intense militarization in Lhasa. A Western observer who visited the city recently reported that “Lhasa is in a state of armed military, police, and special forces (Chinese: te jing) control. The town, especially – if not only – historical downtown is heavily patrolled and check posts are in every corner of the area between the Jokhang temple (including the mosque) and the Potala Palace. The Barkhor circular road has at least 19 police posts with four to six security armed personnel.”

The same visitor reported that tighter restrictions have been imposed that are aimed at discouraging popular religious practice in Lhasa. The visitor said: “The main entrance to the Jokhang temple alone where visitors and devotees enter the temple and many perform full-body prostrations has three security check-posts manned by a number of soldiers and special forces. Tibetan devotees who wish to enter the Jokhang to perform religious practice and who enter for free have to comply with a series of forced rules introduced by local authorities. To access the temple residents and devotees have to stay in line within metal fences. Due to the high number of devotees, the line often reaches hundreds of yards in length and to be able to get in in the morning some Tibetans say that most people start to get in line already at 4:00 am. On the other hand, tourists and visitors both Chinese and Western, pay a fee of 85 RMB (US $13) to enter from a different line that is faster and bypasses hundreds of Tibetan devotees.

“Most of the Jokhang temple rooms and spaces once available for visits and religious practice are now closed to both visitors and devotees. Only the inner sanctum is still open to tourism and devotional practice. These restrictions and tight control over religious practice are considered unbearable by many Tibetans.”

In a recent blog entitled, ‘Lhasa, Lhasa’, the Tibetan writer Woeser wrote: “During the era of China’s reform and opening up, Lhasa was generally where the Tibetan elites wanted to be. I met many young Tibetans who could have stayed in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai after graduation but they preferred to go and live and work in Lhasa, which at the time was very far from any hustle and bustle. Lhasa at the time drew Tibetans from all over like a magnet. Businessmen from Kham and Amdo flooded into Lhasa to do business and monks came to Lhasa’s holy sites and, in accordance with tradition, to study at the Three Great Monasteries. […] It is not the same now. A Khampa mother and father came to see their daughter who had married a Lhasan and were extremely sad about their daughter when they left because she would be living in a city under the muzzle of a gun. The streets are lined with soldiers and Buddhist monks are being desecrated; Lhasa has changed from being a holy city to a fallen place of dirt and danger.” (Published in English on the website High Peaks Pure Earth). 

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