October 24, 2016
The following is an excerpt from my colleague Jayadeva Ranada’s recent analysis on Wu Yingjie, China’s new Tibet Party Secretary. Ranada is former Additional Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, and current President of the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy.
Weeks after the annual conclave of senior leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at the Beidaihe seaside resort, China’s official news agency Xinhua on August 28, 2016, announced the appointments of six new Party Secretaries. Priority appears to have been given to the Autonomous Regions with three of them getting new leaders. Of interest to India are the appointments of Wu Yingjie as the new Party Secretary for the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Chen Quanguo as the Party Secretary of the Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and 62-year old Chen Hao as the Party Secretary of Yunnan.
Other appointments include those of 59-year old Li Jiheng as Party Secretary of Inner Mongolia, 1955-born Du Jiahao as the Party Secretary of Hunan, 1958-born Li Jinbin as Party Secretary of Anhui and Li Xiaopeng, son of former Chinese Premier Li Peng (from 1987 to 1998) at the time of the army crackdown in Tiananmen in 1989, as China’s new Transport Minister.
Of specific interest is the new TAR Party Secretary Wu Yingjie. It would be difficult for the CCP to find another ethnic Han cadre who is as ‘Tibetan’ as Wu Yingjie. The last Han cadre fluent in Tibetan and who was regarded as a ‘Tibetan’ was former PLA General Yin Fatang, who served as Party Secretary of TAR from 1980-1985.
Till his elevation Wu Yingjie was one of four TAR Deputy Party Secretaries, with the others being Padma Choling (Tib), Lobsang Gyaltsen (Tib) and Deng Xiaogang (Han). While Padma Choling and Lobsang Gyaltsen were ranked higher, Wu Yingje was designated the Executive Deputy Secretary. Indication that Wu Yingjie was earmarked for promotion was his being sent to attend the Central Party School in Beijing from March 2000 to January 2001. He studied in the CCP Central Party School's Research Institute, focussing on Party history.
Wu Yingjie has an impeccable ‘Red’ pedigree. His father, Wu Ziming was a member of the Party committee and Secretary of the Communist Youth League of Changyi County Shandong Province. Wu Ziming was transferred to Tibet from Shandong’s Changyi county in 1956 before Wu Yingjie’s birth and assigned work in Golmud. All his family members along with Wu Yingjie came to settle with him in Golmud in 1958.
Born in Changyi County in Shandong Province in December 1956, Wu Yingjie graduated from a high school in Shandong in 1974. He first came to TAR as an “educated youth” under the Tibet Aid programme and worked in Nyingchi. In October 1977, Wu Yingjie came to live in Lhasa and became a worker at a power plant in the western part of the region. He stayed on in Tibet for the next over 40 years and joined the CCP in May 1978. Three years after the Chinese government resumed the all-China college entrance exam, Wu Yingjie enrolled in the Chinese Language and Literature Department of the Tibet Nationalities Institute, Xianyang in Shaanxi in 1979.
After graduating from University in August 1983, he was assigned the post of clerk in the Board of Education of the TAR. In 1986, Wu Yingjie was promoted to Senior Staff and in April 1987 was appointed the Deputy Director of the Primary and Secondary Education Department of the Tibet Autonomous Region Science and Technology Education Commission. Through the 1990s, he held the posts of Deputy Director as well as Director of the Assistance Office and was later promoted as Deputy Director of the Board of Education in the Tibet Autonomous Region Board of Education. By the time he reached 43 years of age in May 2000, Wu Yingjie was appointed the Director of the Tibet Education Department. Credible reports state that during his tenure in the TAR Board of Education, Wu Yingjie “worked hard to promote the development of education in Tibet” and made “important contributions” to the Tibetan schools.
In January 2003, Wu Yingjie, was promoted to the level of a Deputy Provincial cadre and appointed Vice Chairman of the TAR Government. Since then Wu Yingjie served in the TAR Party Committee as Director of the TAR Party Propaganda Department and later as Deputy Chairman of the TAR Government. In November 2011, Wu Yingjie was appointed Deputy Party Secretary of the Autonomous Region, Deputy Chairman of the Autonomous Region Government Executive and Deputy Secretary of the leading group of the Party. In April 2013, he succeeded Hao Peng as Governor of Qinghai Province and was concurrently Deputy Chairman of the Autonomous Region Government’s Executive.
As Director of the TAR Propaganda Department, Wu Yingjie received special credit for the propaganda work during the TAR’s 40th anniversary celebrations in 2005. The Region’s propaganda work was praised as “smooth and fast”. At the time of the March riots in Lhasa in 2008, he would have worked closely with Liu Yunshun, then Director of the CCP CC’s Propaganda Department, in shaping a decisive role for the CCP’s propaganda apparatus which for the first time introduced a schism between the Han majority and Tibetans. Liu Yunshun is currently a Member of the PBSC. Official Chinese media reports state that “a resounding success of patriotism education was seen” during Wu Yingjie’s tenure as Director of the TAR’s Propaganda Department.
Some interesting remarks have been made by Wu Yingjie in the past. When meeting a group of seven South Asian journalists including four from India being hosted by China’s State Council Information Office on a tour to showcase developments in Tibet, TAR Deputy Secretary Wu Yingjie disclosed to the journalists in Lhasa on August 25, 2014, that talks were on with the Dalai Lama. He clarified that these were being held through “personal envoys” and limited to discussing the possibility of his return to Tibet. He said, “All Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama and the people around him, can return if they accept Tibet and Taiwan as part of China, and give up ‘splittist’ efforts.”
Earlier in October 2009, he told US diplomats travelling in Tibet that the Dalai Lama and his "clique" masterminded the "March 14" incident as part of a bid to take back feudal power in Tibet. He claimed that during the 11th Five-Year Plan the TAR had invested a lot of money in restoring religious sites and protecting Tibetan culture and the many people praying at temples in Lhasa testify to the government's protection of religious freedom. He added that tax exemptions for farmers and herders, free medical care, subsidized housing, education and vocational training, and investments in protection of traditional Tibetan culture had improved the lives of ethnic Tibetans. Wu Yingjie also said “Nearly all rural Tibetans can read, however, one-quarter of Tibetans still live without electric power”. He asserted that “Tibetans are not economically marginalized and discrimination based on ethnic background is illegal”.
Also in October 2009, Wu Yingjie asserted that “the "Dalai" uses his religious role for political purposes and that the "March 14th Incident" was masterminded by the Dalai in order to destroy the Beijing Olympics. The Dalai just doesn't want to lose his power”. He added that “In the old days, five percent of the people controlled 95 percent of the land. The Dalai wants to restore his feudal rule, but the serfs have already been liberated. America freed all the black slaves and people welcomed that, but China freed all the Tibetan slaves under the "Dalai Clique," and some people are not happy”. Wu Yingjie added "I don't know why." He said “some foreign countries also give money to the Dalai and send high-level delegations to Dharamsala. For example, U.S. Speaker of the House Pelosi and a White House senior staff member special emissary both went to Dharamsala to see the Dalai Lama”.
He said “The Dalai is asking China to withdraw its People's Liberation Army (PLA), and other non-Tibetan people from the region, and is trying to create a so-called "Greater Tibet" that would include ethnic Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Qinghai, Yunnan and Gansu. No sovereign state could accept such demands, which would divide the country”.
Wu Yingjie additionally disclosed that “After the March 14th (2008) incident, 950 people were arrested and 80 of them were sentenced… Two hundred monks from outside of the TAR who were in the TAR without legal documents were sent back to their home areas, but no monks or nuns are missing. The government views the monasteries as public units (gonggong danwei). Therefore, the government provides the monasteries with free medical care, drinking water, and electricity, and also builds and maintains roads to the monasteries”. He also said that “During the 11th Five Year Plan the TAR has invested considerable money in the protection of Tibetan culture. For example, the government invested 380 million RMB in repairs of the Potala Palace, and the Sakya, Norbulinka, and Tashi Lhunpo Monasteries”. He said the government had built many hospitals of traditional Tibetan medicine and protected about 100 kinds of Tibetan customs as part of the PRC's "national intangible cultural heritage."
Wu Yingjie explained that “The TAR government has undertaken a series of policies to benefit Tibetans. Tibetan language education is well developed in the TAR. Rural children receive free compulsory education. The TAR offers free tuition, free food, and free accommodation for students who need to reside at school. The TAR covers up to 1300 RMB (US$ 190) in annual expenses for primary school students and 1400 RMB (US$ 206) for middle school students. Many rural schools teach classes in both Tibetan and Chinese. Some rural schools even teach English. With support from the Ministry of Information Industry, new technology has been developed to make the Tibetan language easier to use on computers”. Wu Yingjie also said “the TAR would like to teach courses in the natural sciences in the Tibetan language at the university level”. He added “before "liberation" only five percent of Tibetan people went to go to school; now, 80 percent of them are getting an education”. He said “over 98 percent of rural youth and middle aged people are literate -- that is, they are able to read the Tibetan language edition of the Tibet Daily. The government also sends many Tibetan students to inland China to study for free. Generous stipends are provided to students from the TAR who are accepted into a university in inland China”.
In response to a question by the US Consul General at Chengdu about the economic marginalization of ethnic Tibetans in the TAR and a sign on a Lhasa shop that only an ethnic Han would be hired for a particular job, Wu Yingjie declared that “Tibetans are not economically marginalized” and "I don't know why people say such things." Stating that it is impossible to develop such a rapidly growing economy without the participation of ethnic Tibetans, he pointed out that in TAR, 70 percent of the civil servants are ethnic minorities and only 30 percent are ethnic Han.
Wu Yingjie is reputed to get along well with colleagues and be good at delegating work. He is 1.83 metres, or just over six feet, tall and a good athlete who has played basketball and volleyball.
Wu Yingjie’s appointment suggests an effort by Beijing to adopt a more sensitive and understanding approach towards Tibetans. While his predecessor Chen Quanguo focussed more on tightening security and enhancing the Party’s presence and surveillance throughout Tibet, Wu Yingjie is likely to give more importance to the TAR’s propaganda effort. He can be expected to retain the focus on education.
The appointments also indicate that decisions have been taken to fill the anticipated more than 90 vacancies in the CCP Central Committee at the 19th Party Congress. There will also be 5 clear vacancies in the PBSC and 6 among the 18 full members of the Politburo. Xi Jinping will try to fill as many of these as possible with loyalists.