In the midst of leadership reshuffle ahead of the much-awaited once-in-a-decade leadership transition during the forthcoming 20th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong based English-language portal, reported on a transfer of one of the highest Tibetan party officials of the “Tibet Autonomous Region” (TAR).
According to the report, Che Dalha (b.1958), who is a Deputy Party secretary of the TAR Party Committee and the Governor of the TAR Government, has left Lhasa to presumably take up a new job in Beijing, referring to his transfer to the national level government. It is unclear what post he would be given, but he is expected to land in the National People’s Congress (NPC) as a Vice Chairman, replacing Pema Thinley, who is a former Chairman of the TAR People’s Congress (PC). Based on the report, Yan Jinhai (b.1962) would step into the shoes of Che Dalha to become the Governor of the TAR Government. Yan is a Tibetan who is currently a Deputy Party Secretary of the TAR Party Committee and one of the two Tibetan alternate members of the 19th Central Committee of the CCP. Yan was transferred to the “TAR” last July from Qinghai province where he built his career in the span of over 30 years.
The information surrounding Che Dalha’s unexpected departure to Beijing is not official yet. But if this comes out to be true, it would ultimately break the long-held tradition of promoting Chairman of the TAR PC to be a Vice Chairman of the NPC upon their retirement. The reason behind the break in tradition is that Lobsang Gyaltsen (b.1957), a Tibetan party cadre who is currently the Chairman of TAR PC, should be the one to succeed Pema Thinley (b.1951) as a Vice Chairman of the NPC, not Che Dalha. However, it could be possible that Beijing might be considering two Tibetans from the “TAR” into the NPC. In that case, both Lobsang Gyaltsen and Che Dalha would become Vice Chairmen of the NPC. We could also argue that the so-called Chamdo faction in the regional politics has started to diminish its influence with the rise of Che Dalha in the national politics.
The report also mentions that Wu Yingjie (b.1956), who is currently the Party Secretary of the TAR Party Committee will pass the retirement age of 65 for provincial-level leaders in 2022. This begets a simple question, who would succeed Wu? It is important to note that Party Secretary is the highest and most important position in the TAR party politics. In line with a pattern that has emerged since the creation of the “TAR” in 1965, the top position has been exclusively reserved for Chinese, except for an appointment of Wu Jinghua, a member of Yi nationality in 1985. This of course implies the lack of trust in Tibetans by the Chinese leadership in giving the highest and most important position. Under this criteria, Zhong Yan (b.1967), the only Chinese among four deputy party secretaries of the TAR Party Committee, sits on top of the race to succeed Wu, if Beijing doesn’t change the long-held tradition by bringing someone inexperienced from outside of the TAR to take up the most important position, which is highly unlikely.
Keeping the strategic importance of Tibet at the forefront, three important TAR prefecture-level cities have underwent a leadership change last month. Firstly, Ao Liuquan, the Party Secretary of Nagchu Party Committee, was replaced by Zhuang Jinsong. Secondly, Ao Liuquan, who was the Party Secretary of Nagchu was apparently transferred to Nyingtri and officially took over the position of the Party Secretary of Nyingtri Party Committee from Ma Shengchang. It could be surmised that Xi was unimpressed with Ma’s performance when Xi visited Nyingtri in July 2021. In addition, Wangdue, a Tibetan party cadre from Nyingtri will step down from the post of Deputy Party Secretary of the Nyingytri Party Committee and mayor of the Nyingtri Government. Bata (Tibetan) who apparently served as a deputy party secretary of the Nyingtri Party Committee was nominated as a candidate for mayor of the Nyingtri Government. Thirdly, Duan Hai was appointed as the Party Secretary of Ngari Party Committee, overtaking from the outgoing Party Secretary Zhu Zhongkui.
Going by tradition, Che Dalha, as I argued, would replace Lobsang Gyaltsen as a Chairman of the TAR PC and the latter would be promoted to Beijing to take up the NPC position from Pema Thinley.
*Mr. Tenzin Tseten is a research fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the Tibet Policy Institute.