China replaces Tibet's hard-line party boss

AP News
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Posted: Aug 25, 2011 6:23 AM
China replaces Tibet's hard-line party boss

China on Thursday replaced Tibet's hard-line Communist Party boss under whom bloody rioting broke out in the Himalayan region three years ago.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Zhang Qingli, the region's highest-ranking official, is being moved to another position which it did not identify. It said he will be replaced by Chen Quanguo, a longtime party official in the eastern province of Henan who last served as governor of Hebei province surrounding Beijing.

Like all of Tibet's party chiefs, Chen is not Tibetan but a member of China's majority Han ethnic group.

No reason was given for the move, although Zhang has served five years in the position, roughly the standard term for provincial officials.

China's policies for Tibet are set at the highest levels in Beijing and there is no reason to believe the move heralds any major change.

Zhang, a former top official in Xinjiang, another ethnically troubled region, took over as Tibet party secretary in 2006 during a relatively quiet period.

Two years later, deadly anti-government rioting broke out among Tibetans in the capital, Lhasa, spreading quickly to Tibetan areas of western China in the most severe and sustained unrest in decades.

Security forces poured in and a massive crackdown ensued, with China closing Tibet to foreign tourists for a year. Foreign journalists remain barred from Tibet except on rare, tightly scripted government-organized trips.

During his term, Zhang saved his harshest rhetoric for Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, calling the 76-year-old cleric a "wolf in monk's robes" and the "scum of Buddhism."

Beijing considers Chinese sovereignty over Tibet unquestionable and inviolable. It says Tibet has been its territory for centuries, although many Tibetans say they were essentially an independent nation until Communist forces invaded in 1950.

The Dalai Lama recently shifted his political responsibilities to the prime minister of the self-proclaimed India-based Tibetan government-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay, a 43-year-old Harvard legal scholar who grew up a refugee.