A Look at the New Provincial Level Tibetan Leadership

Che Dalha and Lobsang Gyaltsen who have been “re-elected” to their posts in the Tibet Autonomous Region during the meetings in January.

Every year, the Chinese governance system mandates the holding of the meeting of the “Two Sessions” in the provincial level administrative divisions around this time. The two sessions are those of the People’s Congress (the local version of the National People’s Congress) and the People’s Political Consultative Conference (state-level Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, CPPCC).

In theory, the People’s Congress is the Parliament and sets the policy for the region while the PPCC is an advisory body. The People’s Congress appoints the administrative leader, who is the governor/chairman of the Region/Province. There is much fanfare about the “election”, including the usage of the “secret ballot” system, of new leadership by the two sessions. Spoiler alert: it is still the Chinese Communist Party that decides on who is elected or not, not to speak of the fact that the Party decides the overall policy in the region.

Be that as it may, the provincial level two sessions have been held, and this is an initial attempt to look at the outcome in terms of Tibetan personnel changes.

In Lhasa, the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) People’s Congress took place from January 24 to 30, 2018, while the People’s Political Consultative Conference took place between January 23 and 29, 2018. In Qinghai, the People’s Congress took place from January 25 to February 1, 2018, while the People’s Political Consultative Conference took place between January 24 and 30, 2018. In Sichuan, the Provincial People’s Congress session took place from January 26 to February 1, 2018 while the People’s Political Consultative Conference took place between January 24 and 29, 2018. In Gansu, the Provincial People’s Congress session took place from January 24 to 30, 2018 while the People’s Political Consultative Conference took place from January 23 to 29, 2018.

These meetings were in advance of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, scheduled to begin in Beijing on March 5 and 3, 2018 respectively. The Beijing sessions will also lead to the formation of the Government, including reappointment of Xi Jinping as the President.

To begin with, all four Tibetan members of the 19th Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee (full and alternate) obviously find a place in the new leadership line-up. While Lobsang Gyaltsen is re-elected chair of the TAR People’s Congress, Che Dalha is re-elected chair of the TAR Government. The two Alternate Members, Norbu Thondup and Yan Jinhai have become Vice Governors, of TAR and Qinghai Province governments respectively.

In terms of ethnicity of the elected leaders, the Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region is a Tibetan and so are seven of the 14 vice chairs. The Chairman of the TAR People’s Congress is a Tibetan and so are six of the 13 vice chairs of the PC. The Chairman of the TAR People’s Political Consultative Conference is a Tibetan, as are 12 of the 15 vice chairs. In fact, Phakpalha, who has been re-elected, is the longest serving Tibetan official under the Chinese administration, having been serving as Chairman of the TAR PPCC intermittently since 1993.

In Qinghai, the Governor as well as the Chair of the People’s Congress of the Province are non-Tibetans, but one of the vice-governors and vice-chairs of the People’s Congress are Tibetan. The Chairman of the Qinghai People’s Political Consultative Conference is a Tibetan and there are three Tibetans among the nine vice chairs.

In Sichuan, one of the vice-governors is a Tibetan. It does not look like a Tibetan finds a place in the provincial PC and CPPCC standing committees.

In Gansu, two lamas have secured positions: one as a vice chair of the provincial PC and another as a vice chair of CPPCC standing committees. I am not able to see any Tibetan in the Gansu government leadership.

From the Yunnan list, it is not clear whether there are any Tibetans in the provincial leadership.

Overall, a majority of the leaders are those who have already been holding similar posts during the previous year, an indication that the Chinese authorities have stuck to the familiar and the trusted. The top three positions in the TAR (except for the Party Secretary, which is the highest) goes to the same Tibetans who were there last year. In Qinghai, Dorjee Rapten has taken over from fellow Tibetan Rinchen Gyal as the chair of the Political Consultative Conference. In Gansu, two prominent Tibetan lamas continue to maintain political positions.

It is interesting that Penpa Tashi does not seem to figure among the leadership in the Tibet Autonomous Region. He is a rising star, and was in the TAR Party Committee heading the Party Propaganda Department. He was also a vice chair of the TAR Government. I should say that his name continues to appear among “TAR leaders present” at public events even after the two sessions. In any case, it could be that he might move to a position in Beijing, a possible replacement to fellow Tibetan Sithar, who seems to have retired. Sithar was a Vice Minister in the Central United Front Works Department.

The new Leadership in the Tibetan areas

The following are the Tibetans who find a place in the government, the People’s Congress and the People’s Political Consultative Conference of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu.

Tibet Autonomous Region People’s Congress
Chairman: Lobsang Gyaltsen (Losang Jamcan)
Vice Chairmen: Dothok, (Duotuo); Tenzin Namgyal (Danzeng Langjie); Samding Dorje Phakmo Dechen Choden (Samding Dojepamo Deqenquzhen); Woeser; Chime Rigzin; and Nyima Tsering.

TAR Government
Chairman: Che Dalha (Qi zhala)
Vice Chairmen: Norbu Thondup; Chakra Lobsang Tenzin (Gyai’ra Losang Dainzin); Dorje Tsedup; Gyaltsen; Zhang Yanqing (former mayor of Lhasa); Luomei; and Jamphel

TAR People’s Political Consultative Conference
Chairman: Phakpalha Gelek Namgyal
Vice Chairmen: Tenkho (Danko); Drupkhang Thupten Khedup; Tsemonling Tenzin Thinley; Lobsang Gyurme; Zonglo Jampa Khedup; Salunphulak (monk); Sonam Rigzin (Suolan Reng zeng); Ngawang; Jigyon Ngapo; Sangye Dakpa; Dolker; and Tashi Dawa

Qinghai Government
Vice Chair: Yan Jinhai

Qinghai People’s Congress
Vice Chairmen: Nyima Dolma (Neima Zhuoma)

Qinghai People’s Political Consultative Conference
Chairman: Dorjee Rapten (Doje Radain)
Vice Chairmen: Rinchen Namgyal (Renqing ‘anjie), Zong Kang, Zhang Wenkui

Sichuan Government
Vice Governor: Dorjee Rapten (Yao Sidan)

Gansu People’s Congress
Vice Chair: Jamyang Shepa Lobsang Jigme Thupten Choekyi Nyima (Luosang Jiumei Tudan Queqi Nima), a high-level lama

Gansu People’s Political Consultative Conference
Vice Chair: Alak Dewatsang (Jamyang Thupten Gyatso?) Dewacang Jayangtudain Gyaincog

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Bhuchung K. Tsering

Bhuchung K. Tsering

Bhuchung K. Tsering joined the International Campaign for Tibet in Washington, D.C. in 1995 and is currently the Vice President. He worked as a journalist with Indian Express in New Delhi, and as an official of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) in Dharamsala, India, before joining ICT.
 
He is a member of the Task Force set up by the Central Tibetan Administration to work on issues relating to the dialogue process with the Chinese leadership. He was also a member of the team led by the envoys of H.H. the Dalai Lama in the discussions that they had with the Chinese leadership between 2002 and 2010.
 
He has contributed articles on Tibet and related issues to Indian, Nepalese, Tibetan, Swiss and American journals. He has also testified in Congress on behalf of the International Campaign for Tibet and spoken at Universities and Think Tanks.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • There is only one Tibetan among the top leadership in Yunnan at present. WANG Shufen (王树芬)is a female Tibetan from Gyalthang who chooses to use her Han Chinese name. Currently she is a Vice Chairwoman of the Yunnan People’s Congress. According to her bio, she has spent many years in the provincial Civil Affairs Department where she eventually became its Party Secretary prior to her jump to the Yunnan People’s Congress.

    I do not understand what makes you think Penpa Tsering does not seem to figure among the leadership in the TAR. You use the past tense verb “was” for his participation in the Party Committee. Penpa Tsering still is very much a member of the TAR Party Standing Committee and his Propaganda responsibility is one of the most important portfolios on the Standing Committee. I dare say there is not an official in the TAR who would not gladly give up his or her Government Vice Chair for a position on the Party Standing Committee. This is what Penpa Tsering did towards the end of 2016. As a reflection of the importance of the propaganda job in the TAR, one need look no further than the career trajectory of the previous two holders of the position. Today Cui Yuying is Party Secretary and Chairwoman of the Fujian Province CPPCC and Dong Yunhu is Chairman of the Shanghai CPPCC as well as head of the Propaganda Department on the Shanghai Party Standing Committee. True, the TAR Propaganda portfolio was held very briefly by Jiang Jie before he was compelled to hand it over to Penpa Tsering, but this proves the point about the importance of the job. Jiang Jie just did not possess enough capability so it was taken from him and handed to someone who possessed the requisite capability.

    I think at the moment in Beijing there is the feeling that it is not necessary to have a Tibetan among the senior ranks of the United Front Department. Sithar was never really able to carve out a clear role for himself among the Department’s Deputy Heads and always had to work in the shadow of the domineering and over-bearing Zhu Weiqun. To a certain degree this legacy of Sithar persists to this day.

  • Thank you for your response and the information about the sole Tibetan from Yunnan in the leadership.

    As for Penpa Tashi (you mention Penpa Tsering), I know he figures in the Party hierarchy, but since this blog was about the Two Sessions and he no longer seems to be a Vice Chair of the TAR Government, I mentioned it as such. I do believe he is a rising star as he is a protege of Apo Ragdi. Whether or not he goes to Beijing, only time will tell.

    Bhuchung

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