Xi vows to crush moves by Tibetan separatists
Any separatist attempts in Tibet would be crushed, Vice-President Xi Jinping vowed yesterday at a rally marking the 60th anniversary of the region's 'peaceful liberation'. Xi called the remote Himalayan region a 'national security screen' whose stability Beijing was determined to protect.
In a speech watched closely by analysts, overseas Tibetan communities and Washington, Xi, widely expected to become Communist Party chief next year, also attributed Tibet's development in the past six decades to the party's leadership and promised to continue economic reforms.
'The extraordinary development of Tibet over the past 60 years points to an irrefutable truth: without the Chinese Communist Party, there would have been no new China, no new Tibet,' Xi told an audience of thousands assembled in front of Lhasa's iconic Potala Palace.
'We should thoroughly fight against separatist activities by the Dalai clique by firmly relying on all ethnic groups ... and completely smash any plot to destroy stability in Tibet and jeopardise national unity.'
Xi's speech came a few days after the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, met US President Barack Obama at the White House - a meeting that was strongly condemned by Beijing.
Xi also praised the role of the People's Liberation Army and People's Armed Police in the region, calling them 'loyal guardians'.
'Working in unity with fellow countrymen, cadres and people of all ethnic groups in Tibet are fully confident and capable of upholding and strengthening social stability and unity in Tibet,' he said.
Xi's trip to Tibet has been closely monitored for hints of how policy towards the region may change. Xi, unlike President Hu Jintao , who was Tibet's party chief and oversaw the introduction of martial law in 1989, does not have any working experience in or much personal knowledge of the region.
Analysts say it remains to be seen whether the central government will take a tougher line in Tibet, but Xi is working hard to equip himself for the task.
'Xi does not have much connection with Tibet, but he will need to deal with the issues when he becomes the leader,' said associate professor Barry Sautman, a social scientist at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. 'He is now involving himself in Tibet.'
Both Sautman and Zhao Gancheng, director of South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, said the central government, by highlighting Tibet's role as a national security screen, was showing its concern that riots in Tibet might affect China's strategy in dealing with India.
'Ties between the US and India have strengthened,' Sautman said. 'Some people in India believe China is their threat. Tibet is in the front line for any potential conflict with India.'
The United States urged China to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama, but Sautman said Xi's speech indicated that was unlikely to happen in the near future.
In his speech, Xi said: 'As long as we stick to Chinese Communist Party leadership, the socialist system, the system of regional ethnic autonomy and the development path with Chinese and local Tibetan features, Tibet will enjoy greater prosperity, progress and a brighter future.'
Zhao said the reforms taking place in other parts of the country would be implemented in Tibet.
'Tibet is part of China, and Tibetans are part of the Chinese community. Tibet and other parts of China share the same vision for development. The central government will stick to the path of opening up and reform,' he said.
Lian Xiangmin, a research fellow at the China Tibetology Research Centre, said he expected the central government would provide more economic assistance to offset the Dalai Lama's influence.