China Replaces Top Party Official in Tibet

Posted August 25th, 2011 at 7:20 am (UTC-5)
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China says it has replaced the hardline Communist Party boss who oversaw a crackdown after deadly riots in Tibet five years ago.

The official Xinhua news agency reported Thursday that party secretary Zhang Qingli will be moved to another unspecified position. It did not offer any reason for the move.

Zhang, who had served previously in the restive Western region of Xinjiang, has been the highest-ranking official in Tibet since 2006.

Xinhua said he is being replaced by Chen Quanguo, who had been the party chief in the northern province of Hebei. The agency also announced several other appointments, quoting a statement from the party's Central Committee.

Zhang was in charge of Tibet in March 2008 during the breakout of ethnic-based riots which lasted for days and saw buildings in central Lhasa looted and burned. Police cracked down with tear gas and cattle prods and afterward imposed a heavy security clampdown.

China says the rioters killed one police officer and 21 civilians, many of them ethnic Han Chinese. Tibetan exiles say more than 200 people were killed in Tibet and adjoining areas during the clampdown. Many people were given harsh prison sentences for their roles in the riots and a few were executed.

Zhang blamed the riots on the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India and is accused by China of seeking independence for Tibet. Zhang denounced the spiritual leader in lurid terms, describing him as a wolf and a jackal in monk's robes.

Zhang has completed five years as party chief in Tibet, which is the normal term for a provincial official.

His successor, Chen Quanguo, has served in central Henan province as well as Hebei, where he received little experience dealing with China's ethnic minorities. His official resume says he is trained as an economist.