Peking has begun a major transfer of Chinese officials and technicians into Tibet, apparently to accelerate development and control of the sometimes rebellious region and thin out swollen office staffs in Chinese cities.
"Several thousand cadres and technicians from a dozen provinces, municipalities and central departments" are going to the mountainous region, the official New China News Agency disclosed in a dispatch reaching here yesterday. Analysts have estimated an annual movement recently of only about 1,000 chinese into Tibet, where no more than 250,000 of the estimated 1.8 million people are thought to be ethnic Chinese.
The sudden influx of Chinese, still resented as foreign conquerors by many Tibetans, seems designed to ensure Chinese control as Peking carefully relaxes some restrictions on the mountain plateau.
The Tibetans are perhaps the most dangerous and contentious of dozens of minority groups in China and Peking has tried recently to soften up the resistance movement led by the self-exiled Dalai Lama in India.
Perhaps even more important to the Chinese, however, is their own bureaucratic mess created by over-crowding of office staffs in Peking, Shanghai and dozens of other cities. The death of Mao Tse-tung in 1976 and the rehabiliation of thousands of officials purged in his name has filled up already overstaffed agencies. This created tensions between rehabilitated oficials, who often were holder, and younger ones who had held their jobs.
Recent provincial broadcasts indicate only officials "in good health" can be transferred to the thin air of Tibet, so it appears to be younger officials who are being encouraged - or probably in some cases ordered - to pack their bags.
Peking and the Dalai Lama, acknowledged by many Tibetans as their spiritual and temporal leader, have in recent months made conciliatory gestures toward each other. The Dalai Lama, interviewed in Dharamsala, India, by Newsweek magazine last week, spoke well of Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping. China has released former Tibetan rebels from prison and invited several Tibetans who escaped to India with the Dalai Lama after a 1959 revolt to return for a visit.
But the Dalai Lama, 44, angered the Chinese by announcing a visit, beginning this week, to Buddhist communities in Mongolia, a client state of the Soviet Union, and to Moscow itself. A New China News Agency dispatch quoted with approval foreign press comment that "the Soviet Union's courting of Buddhism is closely related to its scheme to form a chain of pro-Soviet or anti-Chinese governments to encircle China."
Since 1949, after a series of weak Chinese governments left the Tibetans mostly to themselves, a new Communist government sent in the army and reestablished rule over the area as a part of China. There were a series of rebellions, culminating in a major, abortive uprising in 1959. Apparently confident of its control, Peking released from prison 376 rebels captured in 1959 and pardoned about 6,000 others in March.
"Something is moving but it is difficult to know where it is going," the Dalai Lama told Newsweek. "There are fewer restrictions for our people now, but basically Tibet still remains a vast prison."
A 45-year-old Tibetan who said he was released from prison and allowed to leave Tibet told Indian reporters this month that armed resistance was continuing, but becoming more difficult. He said Chinese military retaliation against raids on Chinese military convoys was "swift and hard," according to the Press Trust of India.
During the brief, freewheeling wallposter campaign that swept China earlier this year, wallposters reportedly went up in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa calling for Tibetan independence. Some posters also reportedly outlined several of the Tibetan grievances against the Chinese, including less responsibility and lower pay for Tibetans working in the same jobs as Chinese.
Peking has signaled its confidence that the situation in Lhasa has quieted sufficiently by organizing a major visit by foreign journalists based in Peking. Journalists in small groups, usually not China specialists, have been allowed into Tibet occasionally in recent years, but two July trips arranged by the Chinese Foreign Ministry will include about 54 China-watching journalists and their spouses.
So far, there are no rail lines to Tibet, which severely restricts the number of Chinese who can be sent there and adequately supplied through airlifts and truck convoys over difficult roads. The New China News Agency reported today on significant progress on the Quinghai-Tibet railway, expected to be completed sometime in the 1980s.
Peking says the officials it sends to Tibet are all volunteers, but former Chinese officials who have left China say the government has always found it difficult to recruit for such remote areas and has had to forcibly transfer many people. An official news story recently praised a young couple who decided to "dedicate our youth to building a new Tibet." CAPTION: Map, no caption, By Dave Cook - The Washington Post