Little Change Expected Under New Tibet Governor

With discontent in Tibet reaching a high point in 2012 as self-immolations surged, some people, including the Dalai Lama, held hope that the new administration of Xi Jinping would impose kinder, gentler policies in the region. But a newly installed governor of the Tibet Autonomous Region appears prepared to continue the same policies as his predecessor. From Reuters:

Losang Gyaltsen, 55, was elected at the end of the annual meeting of Tibet’s largely rubber stamp regional assembly, and replaces previous governor Padma Choling, according to an announcement by the official Xinhua news agency.

Losang Gyaltsen is a former mayor of Tibetan capital Lhasa and once taught Marxist theory, according to his official biography. His name is also spelled Losang Jamcan in English.

He reports to Tibet’s top official, Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo, a position which traditionally has always been held by a Han Chinese rather than an ethnic Tibetan.

“He’s rather hardline, but all officials at that level are the same,” said prominent Tibetan writer Woeser. “There will be no real change in Tibet.”

China Daily reported that Losang Gyaltsen will focus on the economic reform and development of Tibet , while also maintaining the CCP’s hard line against the Dalai Lama and his supporters:

“Without reform and opening up, there will be no today’s Tibet, nor the prosperity and development of tomorrow’s Tibet,” Losang Jamcan told reporters after his election.

He said the regional government will deepen reform and opening up for the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

“Harmony and stability is an essential guarantee for Tibet’s development and prosperity,” he said. “We should cherish the harmonious and stable situation in our region in the same way that we cherish our very sight.”

He urged maintaining vigilance in times of peace as well as taking a firm political stand and acting consistently to resolutely battling against the 14th Dalai Lama clique and unswervingly safeguarding the unification of the motherland and national unity.

Ethnic Tibetans, including many of those who self-immolate, have protested Beijing’s harsh stance against the Dalai Lama as well as economic development and cultural policies which, in their view, harm their communities. With self-immolations continuing this year, albeit at a slower pace than late 2012, the head of the Tibetan government-in-exile has asked Tibetans to refrain from celebrating the New Year next month. From Bloomberg:

“I request my fellow Tibetans to not celebrate Losar with our usual festivities,” Lobsang Sangay, prime minister in the exiled administration, said in the statement referring to the region’s new year festival. “Instead, when this year’s holiday falls on February 11, I ask you to perform only the customary religious rituals like visiting temples and making offerings.”

Tibetans say China is attacking their culture, religion and environment with policies that have moved thousands of ethnic Han Chinese into Tibet in the name of economic development.