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China: Fewer Tibetans on Lhasa’s Key Ruling Body

Posted by Author on November 7, 2006

Human Rights Watch, November 7, 2006-

(New York, November 7, 2006) – The Chinese government’s decision to reduce the number of Tibetans on Lhasa’s most powerful ruling body raises concerns about the role of Tibetans in administering the region, Human Rights Watch said today.

Appointments made in September to the Chinese Communist Party’s committee in Lhasa, which in effect runs Tibet’s capital, have a lower proportion of Tibetans than at any time in the last 40 years, according to available records. For the first time in 25 years, the Lhasa committee is to be led by an ethnic Chinese politician. Tibetans have faced a high degree of political repression since China’s annexation of Tibet in 1951.

“China seems to be pushing Tibetans out of positions of authority,” said Sophie Richardson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Beijing’s promotion of ethnic Chinese leaders fundamentally compromises Tibetans’ right to participate in Lhasa’s most powerful institution.”

The Chinese government is subject to constitutional requirements which stipulate that the leaders of an “autonomous area,” such as the Tibet Autonomous Region, and most of the representatives to the People’s Congress, must be members of the main nationality that lives there. But these laws apply to the government and the Congress, not to the Chinese Communist Party, which controls the government and holds all final decision-making powers.

The shift away from Tibetan participation in the Lhasa ruling body follows a significant change in rural administration in the Tibet Autonomous Region. In 2003, ethnic Chinese officials were sent for the first time to run xiang, or township, and zhen, or small town, administrations throughout the Tibet Autonomous Region. So far some 280 ethnic Chinese are believed to have been sent to take up these positions, radically altering the role of rural Tibetans in the lowest level of governance in Tibet.

On September 25, 2006, the annual congress of the Lhasa City Party Committee confirmed the appointment of a new party secretary, Qin Yizhi, the first ethnic Chinese leader of the city since July 1980. The seven previous holders of this position since 1980 were all Tibetans, of whom three went on to become governors of the Tibet Autonomous Region. ( more from Human Rights Watch’s report)

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