China has initiated an unprecedented series of policy changes toward the troublesome mountainous region of Tibet, removing the top Chinese administrator, confessing major failure to improve Tibetan living standards and promising promotions for Tibetans throughout the area.
The series of announcements, climaxed by a visit to Tibet by fast-rising Communist Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang, appear designed to lure Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, back to the land he filed after a bloody 1959 uprising.
Before the latest series of Chinese intiatives, the Dalai Lama told interviewers he had received "definitely positive reports" from semi-official missions of Tibetan exiles who have visited Tibet and Peking in recent months. The 44-year-old Tibetan god king, who has run a government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, since 1962, has said he might personally visit China this year or next.
The Chinese Communist Party Central Committee has issued new orders admitting to errors from "ultra-left tendencies" in the region and granting Tibetans the right to plant crops and run other parts of their economy almost as they please.
The People's Daily said the party leader in Tibet, Ren Rong, had been replaced by Yin Fatang. Like Ren, Yin is a military officer, a sign of the area's strategic importance to China, but in a speech he promised "to take into account real conditions in Tibet."
Last year Peking named a veteran Communist Party official who happens to be a Tibetan, Tien Bao, as head of the regional government. The new appointments and the promise of more promotions for Tibetans serve to remind Chinese officials in the area against their habitual arrogance in dealing with Tibetans. Tibetans have complained of being treated like a conquered people. tSuch feelings have made it difficult for the chinese to reconcile with the Dalai Lama.
As expected, the new Chinese orders in the form of a circular blamed most of the area's problems on the disgraced Gang of Four radical clique in Peking, although the toughest measures against the restive Tibetans were taken in the late 1950s when the current Chinese leadership was firmly in power. The traditional Tibetan brand of Buddhism, Lamaism, came under heavy attack during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, but the Chinese have loosened restraints on the practices of all religions since the death of Communist Party Chairman Mao Tse-tung and the fall of the Gang of Four in 1976. General Secretary Hu, accompanied by Vice Premier Wan Li on a recent inspection tour, underlined the need to preserve Tibetan culture. "All relics and classics in the lamasaries must be well protected, sorted out and studied," according to "six prerequisities" outlined by the two high-ranking visitors. m "Cadres of the Han [Chinese] nationality now working in Tibet must learn the Tibetan language, spoken and written. They must respect the customs and habits of the local people as well as their history and culture."
The two men made the unprecedented admission that despite "enormous changes" in Tibet in the last 29 years, since its "peaceful liberation . . . no marked improvement had been brought about in the Tibetan people's livelihood," according to the official New China News Agency.
The number two leader in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy, the Panchem Lama, reappeared in 1978 after reportedly suffering several years in confinement. The Dalai Lama told an Indian news agency that he had received a personal message from the Panchem Lama expressing appreciation for his favorable comments toward an accommodation with the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese appear to be eager to stabilize the situation on their far southwest border, given the activities of their arch-rivals, the Soviets, in Afghanistan and the recent huge arms deals signed by Moscow and New Dehli. The new circular promised increased economic autonomy and support for the region, but there are no indications that the Chinese plan to relinquish actual military and political control over Tibet.
The new announcements promise specific improvements to the Tibetans, including promotions that will give two-thirds of the government posts in the region of Tibetans within two or three years. The Chinese news agency said there were plans to put an end to Tibet's "state of poverty" within two or three years.