Stability stressed in Tibetan areas

Zhuang Pinghui: China's top political adviser told a meeting of officials from five Tibetan-populated provinces and regions in Beijing yesterday that maintaining stability and economic growth in their areas was vital leading up an expected leadership transition this autumn.

Jia Qinglin, the fourth-ranked Communist Party leader and chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said that social stability and economic growth in Tibet, Sichuan, Gansu, Yunnan and Qinghai, five areas with large ethnic Tibetan populations, were "of great significance" and "mattered to the overall situation of the Communist Party and the state" ahead of the party's 18th National Congress, China Central Television reported.

A new generation of party leaders is expected to be appointed at the party congress, with members of the Politburo Standing Committee including party general secretary Hu Jintao passing the baton to younger leaders.

"[We] need to pay attention to the general situation both at home and abroad and strive to keep
economic growth steady while maintaining social stability," Jia told the meeting, adding that economic efforts should focus on improving the well-being of residents, especially farmers and herdsmen. Jia made the remarks ahead of the annual meetings of the CPPCC, which opens tomorrow, and the National People's Congress, which opens on Monday.

They coincide with politically sensitive anniversaries for millions of Tibetans at home and abroad. On March 10, 1959, simmering resentment against the Chinese presence in Tibet exploded into an uprising, with residents taking to the streets in protest. Seven days later, Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled Lhasa to go into exile in India. Beijing has blamed him as the source of unrest in Tibet ever since. On March 14, 2008, mobs of angry Tibetans torched shops and killed nearly 20 Han Chinese in Lhasa.

Control of the region has been tight since, with tensions rising recently. More than 20 monks, nuns and Tibetans have set fire to themselves in the past year, mainly in Tibetan-populated regions in adjacent provinces, to protest against restrictions on religious freedom.

Jia urged officials to "keep the harmony" of the Tibetan-populated areas.

A day earlier, Chen Quanguo, the top Communist Party official in Tibet, vowed to censor mobile phones and the internet more thoroughly ahead of the CPPCC and NPC meetings. In a notice sent to regional officials on Wednesday, Chen demanded officials "take maintaining stability as the core and primary task" to create a "favourable ambience" ahead of the meetings.

"Mobile phones, internet and other measures for the management of new media need to be fully implemented to maintain the public's interests and national security," Chen said.

In Beijing, poet Tsering Woeser, an outspoken Tibetan writer, said authorities had prevented her from receiving a cultural award at the Dutch ambassador's residence in Beijing yesterday.

pinghui.zhuang@scmp.com

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