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China’s 18th Party Congress and Tibet

posted Dec 4, 2012, 5:18 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
Bhuchung K. Tsering

 (November 16, 2012)

International Campaign for TIbet
Reposted in TPR with permission of ICT

 preliminary look at the outcome of the much-hyped 18th National 
Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which was held from November 8 
to 14, 2012, shows that Tibetans should not expect much under the new 
leadership, unless saner thoughts prevail.


Here are a few reasons for this.

 we saw “political structural reform” as one of the buzz-phrases at the Congress, there was no indication that this reform would apply to 
communities that the People’s Republic of China proclaims as its ‘ethnic
minorities.’ And, even as “scientific outlook on development” was 
incorporated into the Party’s Constitution, we found nothing to indicate
that a “people first” spirit would be applied to Tibetans when it comes
to matters relating to their destiny. A statement after the first 
meeting of the new Politburo on November 16, 2012, said: “The foremost 
political task is to concentrate the mind of the Party, the nation and 
people of all ethnic backgrounds onto the congress’s spirit…” But the 
spirit of the Congress is only to consider the economic side of the 
equation, namely “the building of a moderately prosperous society in all
respects.” As the spirit of Tibetans is in crisis, with 74 confirmed 
incidents of self-immolation, this is a tragically narrow approach.

 indication that Tibetans are given lesser weightage is the decrease in 
the number of Tibetans in the Party’s 18th Central Committee. In the 
past few Party Congresses, there were at least two Tibetans among the 
200 plus members of the Committee. This time only one Tibetan is 
included. He is Pema Thinley, the current head of the Tibet Autonomous 
Region Government, and he was a member of the official Chinese 
delegation during the eighth round of discussions with the Dalai Lama’s 
envoys in 2008. If members of the Central Committee are ‘elected,’ then 
the reduced weightage it is an indication about the thinking of the 
majority Chinese members; if they were ‘selected,’ then it reflects the 
thinking of the Party itself. To be noted, there are four Tibetans as 
who serve as alternate members in the Central Committee, the largest 
number we have had to date.

Speaking of representation, the most 
visible position that an ‘ethnic minority’ secured this time is that of 
being a member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee. This honor 
is bestowed on Yang Jing, a Mongolian. He already serves as the Minister
in the State Ethnic Affairs Commission and a Vice Minister of the 
Central United Front Work Department. Otherwise, no ‘ethnic minority’ 
finds a place among the deputy secretaries,

or standing committee
members of the 18th Central Commission for Discipline Inspection], or 
the 25-member Politburo, not to talk of its Standing Committee.

 his first speech as the General Secretary of the Party, Xi Jinping, on 
November 15, 2012, acknowledged that: “In the new situation, our Party 
faces many severe challenges.” However, the growing social tension, 
including between Chinese and Tibetans, is a reality that the Chinese 
leaders will have to deal with, even as Xi says, “…Chinese people have 
opened up a good and beautiful home where all ethnic groups live in 
harmony and fostered an excellent culture that never fades.”

 and psychologically, too, the ‘ethnic minorities’ seem to be considered
more for their token value than substance during the Congress. Much of 
the reference to them during this historic 18th Party Congress was about
their pictorial value for their “exotic garb.”

As we witness the 
historic and historical development in Tibet today, including the 
self-immolations by Tibetans, the following statement by Xi Jinping 
during his acceptance speech acquires a deeper meaning. “It is the 
people who create history. The masses are the real heroes. Out strength 
comes from the people and masses.” I believe the Tibetan people are 
really creating history and Beijing might want to listen.

Jihua, the current head of China’s Central United Front Work Department 
that is the key organization managing Tibetan affairs, finds a place in 
the Central Committee, as was the case with his predecessors. But it is
interesting that Zhu Weiqun, the Executive Deputy Minister of the UFWD,
who handled day to day affairs on Tibet, does not find a place in the 
Committee although he was a member of the 17th CPC committee. This is 
all the more surprising when we consider that the former head of the 
UFWD, Du Qinglin, is in the new Central Committee. Du is older than Zhu 
Weiqun (born in November 1946 while Zhu was born in 1947), indicating 
that age may not have been a consideration.

It remains to be seen
who will oversee organizations like the China Tibetan Culture 
Protection and Development Association, which Beijing has set up for 
their soft power outreach on Tibet. Zhu Weiqun was its Vice- President 
and Secretary General since 2004.

In the coming months, we 
may see the appointment of members of the Central Tibet Work 
Coordination Group or the Leading Group on Tibetan affairs, and 
depending on their background, we might get an idea of how the party 
sees the Tibetan issue. In the past, security considerations seem to 
have dominated in the composition of membership of the Group.

 his acceptance speech, Comrade Ji Xinping concluded,“China needs to 
learn more about the world, and the world also needs to learn more about 
China.” I would add that China and the new Chinese leaders need to 
learn much more about the Tibetans, too.

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