In latest sign of a thaw, a vocal critic of the Dalai Lama has also been sidelined A veteran Tibetan cadre has been named new chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region after a high-level reshuffle, Xinhua announced yesterday. Qiangba Puncog was selected by the Tibet People's Congress. The Xinhua report did not give details about him but government records show he was Communist Party Secretary of Shigatse prefecture. It was also announced that his predecessor, Legqog, would become chairman of the Tibet People's Congress in place of Raidi, who was stepping down. Raidi held the helm at Tibet for many years before he became the congress chief. He is now a vice-chairman of the National People's Congress and a deputy secretary of the Communist Party in Tibet. The 65-year-old has long been a vocal critic of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader, attacking him on several occasions for 'insincerity' in his talks with the central government. The Xinhua report did not say if Raidi would be given other government positions in Tibet but it was expected that he would keep his NPC title for a few more years before he fully retires. The reshuffle came as analysts claimed a thaw between the central government and the Dalai Lama. On Wednesday, the US State Department said in a report to the US Congress that it had been encouraged by talks started last September between the two sides and hoped the dialogue could lead to a solution on the Tibet issue. The US government has pressed the central government to engage the Dalai Lama in negotiations and at the same time expressed concern over human rights abuses in Tibet. The US government-run Radio Free Asia reported on Wednesday that Yang Chuantang would soon take over from Guo Jinlong as the Communist Party secretary of Tibet - making him the No 1 boss in the Himalayan region. Thierry Dodin, a spokesman for the Tibet Information Network in London, said the reshuffle had been expected and would simply be a continuity 'that is neither negative nor positive'. 'We cannot expect anything very spectacular,' said Mr Dodin. 'It shows China's interest in Tibet, and it's a sign that it wants to do something, but they are not telling us what they're doing yet.' He predicted that the new government would invite the Dalai Lama to visit Tibet 'relatively soon and to show him that everything is wonderful in Tibet and that he should come back'. Mr Dodin added: 'The people behind the changes are putting things according to their needs and wishes.'