Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Yu Zhengsheng on Tibet: Following the footsteps of his predecessor

Xi Jinping joins a discussion with deputies from TAR,
who attend the first session of the 12th NPC, in Beijing,
March 9, 2013. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)
By Tenzin Lekshay

Over the last two years, there were lots of speculations on China's position on Tibet with the change in the Chinese leadership. As many believed that Xi Jinping, the incumbent heir of the Chinese leadership would show softness in handling the Tibet issue, because of his reformist father who had some connections with Tibet. Bao Tong, former aid of purged Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang said that “To understand what kind of leader Xi Jinping will be, one must study his father’s (policies)," and he confirmed that “No (Chinese) Communist will betray his father.”1 Some even felt that his wife's cultural background might influence him to handle Tibet in a possibly better way. But, many remained skeptical of any ground breaking changes in Tibet due to the prevalence of hard-line party policies inside Tibet. It was however, in mid July 2011, during the 60th Anniversary of so called 'peaceful liberation of Tibet' in Lhasa, Xi Jinping declared that "We should fight against separatist activities by the Dalai group, rely on cadres and people of all ethnic groups, seek long-term policies and take measures that address the root cause, and completely destroy any attempt to undermine stability in Tibet and national unity of the motherland."2 Such rhetoric statement of Xi Jinping prior to becoming the President of People's Republic of China (PRC) clearly determined that he will adhere strictly to the party line.

With much hype and secrecy amidst the huge political maneuvering, China's 5th generation leaders were declared. Among them, Yu Zhengsheng, princeling and the former Shanghai boss was appointed as the fourth ranking member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau. In March 2013, he succeeded Jia Qinglin as the Chairman of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which is the top political advisory body that sets policies for Tibet, Xinjiang and minorities issue.

Though Yu Zhensheng succeeded Jia Qinglin, who headed Tibet issue over the last one decade, it is believed that Yu enjoys more political clout than his predecessor. South China Morning Post reported Jiang Zhaoyong, a Beijing based expert on ethnic issues opined that "Yu turned out to be the No1 figure in charge of sensitive, but important ethnic issues now."3 But it is commonly understood that CPPCC is purely an advisory body with little political authority and was given high profile to project CPC as a democratic institution rather than hierarchical. However, it is important to understand Jai Qinglin's work on Tibet, which becomes a precedent for Yu Zhengsheng to implement his policies on Tibet.

Here are some of the chronological updates of Jia Qingling on Tibet.

Jia Qinglin presents the congratulation banner to the TAR 
at the celebration meeting held in Lhasa on September 1, 2005. 
On 31 August 2005, Jia Qinglin led a central delegation to Lhasa to take part in the 40th Anniversary of the founding of Tibet Autonomous Region. Xinhua mentioned that he urged to strictly crack down on separatist activities in accordance with law to ensure social stability and state safety. He also calls for substantial efforts to strengthen of party, which is the fundamental assurance for accomplishing all the works in Tibet.4

On 18 May 2006, While inspecting the China Research Center  for Tibetan Studies in Beijing, Jia Qinglin stressed that doing well the research  work of Tibetan studies is of extremely important significance to  inheriting and carrying forward the outstanding Tibetan culture, promoting reform and opening up, economic development, and social  stability in Tibet and other areas inhabited by Tibetans, resisting the  plot of the Western hostile forces to westernize and disintegrate our  country, and safeguarding ethnic solidarity and the reunification of the  motherland.5

In March 2009, during the opening session of the CPPCC, Jia said in a nationally televised speech that "We unequivocally supported the party and government in dealing with the destructive and disruptive, violent and illegal incidents in Lhasa, Tibet and other areas in accordance with the law,"6

On 27 March 2009, Jia made a remark in Beijing at a meeting to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Serfs Emancipation day in Tibet that the Dalai clique sought separation. He declared that "No matter what the Dalai Lama claims, it will not change the reality that Tibet was, is and will always be part of China."7

On 11 May 2010, during a special prayer session for the Kyegudo earthquake victims, Kalon Tripa Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche said that the clear message conveyed by CPPCC Chairman Jia Qinglin to overseas Tibetans to make material donation or visit family members in Tibet has encouraged and showed to the Tibetans in exile a way forward.8 However in contrary, AP reported that Jia Qinglin referred "hostile forces from abroad working to cause disruptions and sabotage" to relief efforts.9

On 24 February 2011, Jia Qinglin addressed a meeting on Tibet and other Tibetan inhabited areas in Beijing that "The fight against the Dalai Lama clique must be continued and deepened while each task in maintaining stability must be circumspectly deployed". He calls for raising the living standards of the people, especially farmers and nomads in Tibet.10

On 23 May 2011, during the 60th anniversary of "The liberation of Tibet", Jia Qinglin said that Tibet was an "an inseparable part of China" and that "its fate has always been closely linked with that of the motherland. He said that the government should "firmly safeguard Tibet's social harmony and stability (and) deepen the fight against the clique of the Dalai Lama" to achieve lasting peace and stability in the region".11

In late December 2011, he issued an “important memorandum” on “mechanisms to build long-term stability in Tibet”. In that official document, the new policy known as the “Complete Long-term Management Mechanism for Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries,” described as “critical for taking the initiative in the struggle against separatism,” which aims to “ensure that monks and nuns do not take part in activities of splitting up the motherland and disturbing social order.” Subsequently on 04 January 2012, Chen Quanguo, the Party Secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) announced that party officials will be stationed in almost all monasteries permanently.12

On 01 March 2012, Jia addressed a meeting on Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited areas in Beijing, where he urged officials to maintain stability and improve social management in Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited areas in the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan. He stated that "Currently, the clique of the Dalai Lama are trying in vain to continuously create incidents in Tibet and the Tibetan-inhabited areas in the four provinces," and "(Authorities) should implement the prescribed measures well to resolutely crush the Dalai Lama clique's conspiracy of making Tibetan-inhabited areas unstable, thus making the masses able to live and work there comfortably,"13

On 19 October 2012, he called for greater development in Tibet as well as more efforts to fight the Dalai Lama clique, in order to ensure the regions' lasting stability. He said that Tibet issues are of paramount importance for the CPC and the country, and stressed on stability and development in Tibet.14

Yu Zhengsheng and Jia Qinglin
(Photo Credit: Lintao Zhang, GETTY)
Over the years, Jia Qinglin's statements were imperatively critical and viewed as the essence of China's policy towards Tibet that clinches in between unity and stability. He even called repeatedly to fight the Dalai Lama clique. He emphasized much on economic development inside Tibet, which he believed was a lifeline of the CPC to sustain in Tibet.

In 2013, Yu Zhengsheng, the current head of CPPCC made three trips to Tibet and his first visit to Kardze happened before he officially took charged of the advisory body. While taking a glimpse of his visits to Tibet, it is understood that he is taking the matter serious, considering the waves of self immolations happening inside Tibet.

From 06-08 January 2013, Yu visited Kardze area (Sichuan Province). Xinhua reported that Yu “called on monks and nuns to be patriotic and observe the law and monastic rules”. Yu alleged that "The fight against the Dalai Lama clique should continue in order to create a favorable social and political environment for economic development and the improvement of people's well-being," On development, he said that the key for developing Tibetan areas lies in improving infrastructure and public services.15

On 07 July 2013, Yu Zhengsheng made an inspection tour in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province. He visited Labrang Monastery in Xiahe County, which is considered the most influential monastery in the traditional Tibetan area of Amdo. During the visit, he accused the Dalai Lama for engaging in secessionist activity and had rejected 'Middle Way Policy' of the exile Tibetan administration by claiming that it contradicts China's Constitution and the Regional Ethnic Minority Law. He also called for an absolute fight against the Dalai Lama clique to realize national unification, regional development and stability.16 On 10July, CTA refuted Yu's remark by saying that CTA has already explained how Middle Way Policy does not contravene the Chinese constitution.

Yu Zhengsheng talks with Tibetan children in Nagchu
Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region
on 05 August 2013.
 From 01-06 August 2013, Yu said the Dalai Lama's so-called "high-degree autonomy" in "Greater Tibet" has "run counter to China's Constitution, the law, and the fundamental interests of Tibetan Buddhism." Xinhua reported Yu urging the Tibetan to "have a clear understanding of the secessionist nature of the Dalai Lama clique and resolutely safeguard national unification, ethnic unity and Tibet's harmony and stability." He also said that development is fundamental to address all issues related to Tibet.17

Even though Yu Zhensheng is known for his liberal economic thoughts, he is strictly following party lines in contemning the Middle Way Policy of Central Tibetan Administration. He also claims to fight the Dalai Lama clique. With such rhetoric statements, it is understandable that China would achieve nothing.  His predecessor, Jia Qinglin made such similar statements earlier and there were no progress in resolving the Tibet issue. If Yu believes that economic development would solve all the issues related to Tibet, without considering the aspirations of the Tibetan people to preserve their cultural identity, then he is following the footsteps of Jia. Such policies, which are implemented either by forces or by infecting economic reforms will ultimately fail to bring positive impact on Tibet. Consequently, it might sustain short term stability and a fractured unity, which could collapse any moment. It is therefore imperative for Yu Zhensheng to introduce a shift in party's rigid policy on Tibet and follow a rational path that could bring a lasting solution for Tibet.

In 2002, while speaking to Hubei Provincial Committee members of CPPCC, Yu said "If you have any questions, bring them up. If you have any problems or any worries, tell us. Only by being frank can we become devoted friends". In a similar fashion, there is a ray of hope that Yu will listen to the grievances of the Tibetan people and implement a policy that respects Tibetan cultural identity. 

2) Full text of speech by Xi Jinping at Tibet's peaceful liberation anniversary conference, 19 July 2011 

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