Ngaba leadership changes reveal China’s hardline Tibet policy

TibetanReview.net:  In a rare display of open dissent, an ethnic Tibetan cadre, apparently in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) Prefecture of Sichuan Province, has issued an open protest letter, questioning the promotion of a party official whose ''strike-hard'' policies had contributed to a spate of self-immolation protests by Tibetans in the region and “who had made his career out of exaggerating rebellious threats and stampeding over cultural and linguistic divisions”, reported smh.com.au Feb 16.

The target of the criticism was Mr Shi Jun, the party secretary of Ngaba
Prefecture, who has since been promoted as the vice-governor and public security boss of Sichuan province. His promotion came after more than a dozen self-immolations as well as police shootings on peaceful Tibetan protesters.

The open letter issued by a cadre named Luo Feng was circulated widely since Mr Shi's promotion. It said Shi had pursued blatantly discriminatory personnel policies and had called Tibetans ''ferocious and stupid''. It was also cited as saying the local monastery was crawling with so many officials that it resembled the days of the Cultural Revolution.

The letter was reported to continue that the streets were like the war zones of Libya or Iraq, with people talking about a guard at every three paces and a sentry at every five, while even herdsman had lost hope and freedom without seeing returns from economic development.

Robbie Barnett, a Tibet expert at Columbia University, has noted that the ''highly unusual and
revealing'' open letter had highlighted an anomaly in China, where officials seemed to be punished for unrest in areas populated by China's Han ethnic majority but not for ''catastrophic failure'' in Aba, Lhasa and elsewhere.

But the leadership in Beijing apparently views Mr Shi as bold and decisive rather than a failure, given the fact that President Hu Jintao himself got skyrocketed to the country’s top post in a similar manner. This is proved both by the major promotion Shi as received and his replacement.  The replacement is Mr Liu Zuoming, a veteran of the provincial security apparatus.

Liu, 54, has spent the past three decades working his way up the law enforcement bureaucracy in Sichuan and headed the province’s justice bureau until his new appointment, reported AP Feb 15. It quoted him as having said in a Feb 11 speech to local officials posted on the Aba government website that they “must correctly handle the relationship between stability and development. There can be not the slightest relaxation on stability, nor the slightest paralysis or laxity.”

Meanwhile, a journal article by one of China's most senior Tibet policymakers has hinted that the party was considering an abrupt shift towards overtly assimilationist policies, after more than 60 years of recognising cultural and ethnic difference. The smh.com.au report cited Zhu Weiqun, deputy head of the party's United Front Work Department, as saying that listing ethnic minority status on identity cards, using ethnic names for schools and regions and reserving privileges for ethnic minorities were obstacles to nationalism and cohesion.

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