A number of state-approved Tibetan celebrities carried the Olympic flame in Lhasa yesterday, leaving little room for doubt they had been chosen for their support of the Chinese Communist Party. As the torch made its way through Tibet and in Xinjiang earlier - two autonomous regions with restive minority separatists, the percentage of torch-bearers from ethnic minorities was comparatively high - a measure of the importance the government attaches to the minorities. About half the relay runners in Lhasa were Tibetans with party-approved backgrounds. The first relay runner, Gong Bu, 75, had been a shepherd serf for local noblemen during his childhood. Before joining the Chinese national mountaineering team in 1958, he had served in the People's Liberation Army for two years. On May 25, 1960, Gong Bu and two other Chinese mountain climbers, Wang Fuzhou and Qu Yinhua, scaled Mount Everest from its northern slope, bringing with them a plaster statue of the late paramount leader Mao Zedong . This has been widely portrayed, particularly among foreign mountain climbers, as a Chinese government-led crusade to proclaim sovereignty over the 8,848-metre-high roof of the Himalayan mountain range. The last torch-bearer, Caidan Zhuoma, a 71-year-old female Tibetan singer, was popular in the late 1950s through to the mid-1970s. During the period of the cult of personality that accompanied Mao's Cultural Revolution, Caidan Zhuoma rocketed to fame by singing a series of songs eulogising Chairman Mao and the Chinese Communist Party. Another important theme of her songs was about the joy in the hearts of serfs liberated by the party. Enjoying party membership since 1961, Caidan Zhuoma was a long-time deputy to the National People's Congress and member of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. In addition to the torch-bearers, spectators at the torch relay in Lhasa were carefully choreographed by organisers. Ethnic Tibetan onlookers wore identical new robes. The live TV broadcast showed them waving Chinese and Olympic flags in rehearsed unison as torch-bearers passed by.