« Back to articlePrint this article

Xi Plays Tibet Card, Appoints Hardliner

October 29, 2021 07:06 IST

Wang Junzheng, Tibet's new Communist party boss, is on a number of sanctions lists by the US, Britain, the EU and Canada, for his tough role in Xinjiang, aimed at China's Uyghur ethnic minority, observes Jayadeva Ranade, the retired senior RA&W officer and distinguished China expert.

IMAGE: Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist party of China, arrives for a ceremony at the Monument to the People's Heroes at Tiananmen Square to mark Martyrs' Day, Beijing. Photograph: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

As anticipated in July with the inclusion of Politburo member and head of the Chinese Communist party central committee's powerful organisation department Chen Xi in Chinese President Xi Jinping's entourage for his visit to Tibet, major leadership changes have been implemented in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

Two important appointments, that of a new TAR party secretary and a new Lhasa municipal party secretary and acting chairman of the TAR people's government, were announced on October 19.

The appointments suggest that the Chinese leadership is gearing up to accelerate completion of the major dual-use infrastructure projects approved in the 14th Five Year Plan.

The leadership will also have to counter resistance to the implementation in TAR of tougher policies, like Mandarin being made the primary language in all schools in Tibet, prescribing a new history of Tibet and its people, 'eliminating the influence of the Dalai Lama' etc.

The appointment of Wang Junzheng as the new TAR party secretary was announced two months prior to the current incumbent TAR party secretary Wu Yingjie reaching the age of retirement.

Reports suggest that Wang Junzheng has already taken over and started attending official functions.

The official spokesman of China's ministry of foreign affairs stated that it had hosted a Global conference on Tibet titled China on a New Journey: A New Chapter of Development for a Happy New Tibet on October 20 at Lanting.

The statement said State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended and addressed the event, where 'Secretary of the Communist party of China Xizang autonomous regional committee Wang Junzheng and acting chairman of the people's government of the Xizang autonomous region Yan Jinhai delivered presentations'.

Immediately prior to his appointment and since 2019, Wang Junzheng was head of the political and legal commission of the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region (XUAR) overseeing its security apparatus.

Wang Junzheng has been placed on a number of sanctions lists by the United States, Britain, the European Union and Canada, for his role in the formulation and implementation of tough policies aimed at China's Uyghur ethnic minority.

He worked closely with politburo member and XUAR Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, who has also been sanctioned by Western governments.

Wang Junzheng, like Chen Quanguo, has dismissed the sanctions as of no consequence.

It has not yet been disclosed whether Wu Yingjie, who was born in 1956 and has reached retirement age, will be accommodated in the Chinese people's political consultative conference or the national people's congress. He has been appreciated by Chinese President Xi Jinping during recent interactions.

Days prior to the appointment of the new TAR party secretary, the TAR people's congress on October 8 appointed Yan Jinhai as vice chairman and acting chairman of the TAR government.

He replaced 63-year-old Che Dalha (Qi Zala) a reputed tough ethnic Tibetan cadre on the fast track who held important positions in the TAR.

Che Dalha was born in Yunnan province in August 1958 and brought up in that province. He came to TAR in 2010.

Over the past couple of years and especially around the period of the Tibet work forum and NPC in March this year, Che Dalha received noticeably high media profile prompting speculation that he is being considered for elevation, possibly even as TAR party secretary.

Che Dalha has now been shifted to Beijing, possibly for a senior appointment, but his assignment is not yet known.

Yan Jinhai, who has been appointed to replace Che Dalha, was born in March 1962 in Qinghai province.

He joined the Communist party in December 1983 and served entirely in Qinghai province before being moved to TAR in July 2020. He graduated in 1982 from the Qinghai university of nationalities with a major in Chinese after which he taught at the Huangnan normal school for nationalities. He is an alternate member of the 19th Communist party central committee.

He was appointed deputy party secretary of TAR and since January 18, 2021 has been serving as party secretary of Lhasa.

Though his official bio-profile lists him as an ethnic Tibetan, he is called a 'fake Tibetan' by Tibetans possibly because his facial features resemble those of an ethnic Han.

The third significant appointment is that of Ao Liuquan as party secretary of TAR's Nyingchi prefecture.

A Han born in May 1974 in Guiyang, Guizhou, Ao Liuquan joined the Communist party in July 1996. He graduated from the Sichuan business administration institute.

He moved to TAR in 1996 and served till 1999 as deputy head of the Nimu township, Bianba county, TAR. He has served in TAR since then.

Nyingchi is an important prefecture and Xi Jinping has visited it thrice -- first as party secretary of Fujian, then as China's vice president and most recently as president.

Nyingchi is the centre of major strategic infrastructure construction projects including the railway connecting Chengdu in Sichuan with Tibet's capital Lhasa and a proposed massive dam on the Great Bend of the Brahmaputra.

Nyingchi's official administrative boundaries, incidentally, include the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

The appointments of the TAR party secretary and acting cof TAR have come as China prepares for the 20th party congress, crucial for Xi Jinping, late next year.

Another five Communist party cadres were also promoted as provincial party secretaries on October 19, indicating that Xi is working to ensure a supportive 20th Party Congress.

Jayadeva Ranade, former additional secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, is the President, Centre for China Analysis and Strategy.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/