For a change, this blog is going to indulge in speculation based on the rumor going round certain informed Tibetan circles. This pertains to the leadership of two Tibet-related institutions, one in Beijing and the other in the Karze [Chinese: Ganzi] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province.
The first change relates to the directorship of the China Center for Tibetan Studies in Beijing, the institution that is being projected as the foremost Chinese research institute dedicated to Tibet. The present director, Lhakpa Phuntsok la, is believed to be retiring soon and he is being replaced by another Tibetan.
I have met Lhakpa Phuntsok la while accompanying His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s envoys for their talks with the Chinese leadership. From my own limited perception as well as information from people that know him, Lhakpa Phuntsok la is a learned individual. He started his professional career as a teacher and subsequently became the head of the TAR Academy of Social Sciences. He was moved into politics later becoming one of the deputy chairmen of the Tibet Autonomous Region government, before being thrust back into academics as head of the China Center for Tibetan Studies in Beijing. At one time his name was even mentioned as a possible candidate for the Chairmanship as well as the Party Secretary of TAR.
Those who know something about the Center say that because it is so politicized and because major decisions are taken more by the institute’s Party Committee head than the director, there will be much challenge to any incoming head. According to available information, the person slated to be the new head of the Center does not have any scholarly background. We will wait to see how this connects with the reality of the development when that takes place.
The other change that is said to be taking place is more interesting. The Party Secretary of the Karze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Mr. Liu Daoping, was promoted as one of the Vice Chairmen of the Sichuan People’s Political Consultative Conference on January 17, 2009, and has already moved to Chengdu. However, he continues to hold the position of the Party Secretary in Karze Prefecture.
The interesting rumor is that an official of the United Front Works Department, Wei Gang (whose Tibetan name is Rinzin Losel), who is presently posted at the Chinese Consulate in New York, is going to be appointed as the Karze Party Secretary. The Consulate currently proudly presents him as the “first ethnic Tibetan to serve as a Chinese diplomat to the United States.” I have met him a couple of times at events at Latse Library in New York. He speaks good Tibetan. But this cannot be the reason why he is being considered for the post of the head honcho of Karze Prefecture, if the rumors are right.
Last year, during the height of the crisis in Tibet, he was one of the voices of the Chinese government with his Tibetan ethnicity (although officially he seems to use his Chinese name Wei Gang rather than his Tibetan name) being exploited to the fullest. Therefore, if he is being sent to Karze it would be more because of his political leanings than an indication of a considered effort to empower Tibetans. Just take a look at the following information about him that is on the website of the Chinese consulate in New York. His birth place mentioned as Yajiang is known to Tibetans as Nyagchukha.
“Renzhen was born and raised in Yajiang County, Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province. Before he began public life as a consul at the Chinese Consulate General in New York in 2002, he had worked as a farmer, a government official at different levels and a scholar of Tibetan history and culture. Maintaining frequent contacts with fellow Tibetans and having himself experienced and witnessed the changes in Tibet and other areas with Tibetan communities, he said that he is ‘qualified’ to comment on the current situation in Tibet.
“He said that he does not view the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader.
“‘I can be accountable to tell you that there are no conflicts between the ethnic Tibetans and the Central Government, nor those between the Tibetan and Han ethnic groups,’ Renzhen said. He added that the Dalai Lama has not been back to Tibet since 1959 and does not have a true picture of what’s really going on in Tibet. ‘Actually we feel it the happiest period of time in Tibet,’ Renzhen said.
“Renzhen’s work in New York is mainly providing assistance for overseas Tibetans and Tibetans from China living and visiting eastern America with matters such as visa applications. During his six years in the United States, he often talks and discusses with them about the current situation in Tibet and areas with Tibetan communities. ‘There are disagreements among us, but most of them agreed with what I have said,’ Renzhen said. He also said that some of them are thinking of going back to invest in their homeland.”
What Beijing needs right now is to formulate the right policies toward the Tibetan people and to appoint individuals to leadership positions in Tibetan areas who can gain the people’s trust.
Caption: Lhakpa Phuntsok (www.tibet.cn)