Xinhua: Yang Chuantang Will Return to the TAR as Party Secretary

December 17, 2004

On December 16, 2004, Xinhua reported that the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee announced the previous day that Yang Chuantang will leave his post as the governor of Qinghai province and return to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) as secretary of the Party Committee. He will replace Guo Jinlong, who will become the Party secretary in Anhui province.

CECC Comment

Reports portray Yang Chuantang as one of a group of "fifth generation" leaders who are rising to important provincial posts, and who are linked to President Hu Jintao through service in the Communist Youth League (CYL). Yang’s return to the TAR as the Party’s top official may signify a vote of confidence from Hu, who held the same post from December 1988 until March 1992. Three months after Hu arrived, he learned firsthand how challenging the Tibetan political environment could be when rioting erupted in Lhasa on March 5, 1989. After three days, Hu signed an order imposing a state of martial law that was not lifted until May 1990.

In November 1993, the CCP Central Committee transferred Yang from Shandong province, where he served as deputy Party secretary, to the TAR, where he became a member of the Party’s standing committee. Guo Jinlong arrived the same month and became the Party deputy secretary. In 1994, Guo was promoted to the position of executive deputy secretary, and Yang moved up to deputy secretary. Yang served under two TAR Party secretaries. The first, Chen Kuiyuan, took the post when Hu Jintao left in 1992, and was widely regarded as a hard-liner responsible for intensified repression of Tibetan religion and culture. Guo Jinlong succeeded Chen in September 2000 and, in line with the emerging Great Western Development campaign, increased the emphasis on economic growth.

In a move that surprised observers, Yang was transferred to Qinghai province in October 2003 to serve as the acting governor. In January 2004 he was appointed governor. The CECC observed in its Annual Report for 2004 that the intensity of religious repression against Tibetan Buddhists varies across regions, and that Qinghai may currently be relatively less repressive than the TAR or Sichuan province. Political imprisonment of Tibetans in Qinghai has followed a similar trend, and is less common than in the TAR and Sichuan. Observers will be watching for clues that may indicate whether Yang’s experience in Qinghai will influence implementation of Party policy in the TAR.