(TibetanReview.net, Dec20’22) – China has on Dec 13 replaced the ethnic Tibetan mayors of the cities of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) with ethnic Chinese cadres in clear violation of its Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy, signalling an all-out implementation of President Xi Jinping’s signature Sinicization move. This was despite the fact that all the replaced mayors have been known to be as communist party of China (CPC)-loyalists as one could get, given the strictness of the process underlying their appointment.
Wang Qiang replaced Gho Khog, the Tibetan mayor of Lhasa since 2016. Similar changes have been made in the case of the mayors of Shigatse (Chinese: Rikaze) and Chamdo (Changdu), other cities in Tibet that were hit hard by the global pandemic, said Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) Dec 19.
Appointments of mayors, as in the case of other top posts at all levels of government in Tibet, are rubberstamped by the concerned local legislative bodies, with the candidates already decided beforehand by the party.
Mayors serve as a key link between Beijing and the local level in ensuring that Beijing’s goals and objectives are achieved within Tibetan areas. Although mayors do not make policy decisions, they have strong influence on the policymaking process and its resultant decisions, noted the ICT report.
With Wang Qiang’s appointment, the Tibetan capital is now run almost entirely by Chinese cadres, with an ethnic Chinese person serving as the head of the city government.
It was just last year, in November, that the 12th local people’s congress announced that Gho Khog had been reappointed as the mayor with 14 Vice-Mayors, of whom 11 were ethic Chinese. At least six of them (three each from Beijing and Jiangsu) hold the designation as “aid-to-Tibet” cadres.
Similarly, the local governments of Shigatse and Chamdo are run by Chinese with Tibetans accounting for around 30% in the leadership positions, ICT said.
The Tibetan capital always had a Tibetan mayor at least since 1980 – Tenpa Gyatso (1980-1987), Logha (1987-1992), Lobsang Dhondup (Aug 1992-Jun 1995), Lobsang Gyaltsen (Sep 1995-Dec 2002), Norbu Dhondup (Dec 2002-Sep 2006), Dorjee Tsedup (Sep 2006-Dec2012), Zhang Yanqing (a Tibetan with Chinese name, Jun 2012-Jun 2016), Gho Khog (Jun 2022-Dec2022).
And that was because China’s Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy states that the government leader of an autonomous region, prefecture or county should be a member of the ethnic group that is exercising regional autonomy in the area. The post of the party leader at all levels, wherein real power resides, on the other hand, has always been an ethnic Chinese.
But while the law also says the members of the local government at these levels should include both members of the autonomous ethnic group and other ethnic minorities, if possible, this has not been the case in recent years, particularly since Xi Jinping came to power, notes the ICT report.
Wang Qiang is an “aid-to-Tibet” cadre and his appointment as the mayor of Lhasa could be meant to inspire more Chinese to volunteer to work in Tibet. As a matter of act, the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China Committee of TAR on Dec 8 introduced 19 incentive measures aimed at cultivating, attracting, employing, and retaining talents from mainland China on a yearly basis.
ICT said Lhasa, after controlling Covid-19, announced a “zero-threshold” settlement policy in Feb 2022, so that any number of Chinese migrants could come and live in the city and Wang Qiang’s appointment signalled a deeper Chinese political control in the region.
In this connection, ICT points out that at the CPC’s ethnic work conference in Lhasa in early Feb 2022, the TAR Party Secretary Wang Junzheng signalled a deepening of bi-directional migration in the “new journey” toward a “socialist modernized new Tibet.”