China has appointed a new governor for Tibet who has vowed to uphold social “stability,” Chinese state media announced Tuesday, but experts say he is a hard-liner who will have little influence to moderate Beijing’s tough policies in the restive region.
Ethnic Tibetan Losang Gyaltsen, 55, was elected at the end of the annual meeting of the regional legislature of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), replacing outgoing governor Padma Choling, Xinhua news agency said.
The largely figurehead post is seen as subordinate to the more powerful regional secretary of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, a position traditionally held by Han Chinese.
Speaking to reporters following his appointment, Gyaltsen, a former mayor of the Tibetan capital Lhasa, vowed to uphold social “stability” in Tibet in order to promote “the region’s development and prosperity.”
“We should cherish the harmonious and stable situation in our region in the same way that we cherish our very sight,” Gyaltsen said, according to the Xinhua.
Appointed 'for policing purposes'
Gyaltsen, in spite of his role as governor, will likely have “very little influence” on the direction or moderating of Chinese policy in Tibet, said Columbia University Tibet scholar Robbie Barnett.
“He belongs to that long generation of Tibetans who have been selected and promoted by the Chinese leadership because they show no sign at all of questioning the tasks they are given or of putting cultural values before issues like security and control,” Barnett said.
Like almost all other Tibetans appointed as governors under Chinese control, Gyaltsen is there “for policing purposes” and to show a tough face to the Tibetan people, Barnett said.
“If they sent him abroad to talk to foreigners, it would be a soft-power collapse for China,” Barnett said.
Prominent Tibet writer Woeser said Gyaltsen is a hard-liner and will not be able to ease the tight controls in Tibet.
"He's rather hard-line, but all officials at that level are the same," Reuters news agency quoted her as saying. "There will be no real change in Tibet."
Tibetan regions of China have been rocked in recent years by a wave of self-immolation protests by Tibetans questioning Beijing’s rule and calling for the return from exile of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Ninety-eight of them have set themselves ablaze to call for Tibetan freedom and for cultural, religious, and language rights since the wave of fiery protests began in February 2009.
China on the other hand has defended its rule of Tibet, claiming it has brought development and improved living standards to the formerly independent region since its troops marched in more than 60 years ago.
Reported by Richard Finney.