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China appoints military commander as head of Tibet

China has picked up a veteran military commander as the governor of the restive Tibetan region, signalling a continuation of its hardline approach to the province which two years ago witnessed widespread unrest against its rule.

world Updated: Jan 15, 2010 16:08 IST

China has picked up a veteran military commander as the governor of the restive Tibetan region, signalling a continuation of its hardline approach to the province which two years ago witnessed widespread unrest against its rule.

Padma Choling, who was in the People's Liberation Army for over 17 years took over as the governor on Friday from Qiangba Puncog who had stepped down to be named as a head of the Tibetan Parliament, official news agency Xinhua reported. As Chairman Qiangba Puncog was the public face of the ongoing crackdown or the unrest in Tibet since March 2008. China said 21 people had been killed in the rioting, but Tibetan sources put the figure at more than 200.

Thousands of people were arrested during the unrest, which peaked before China hosted the Olympic Games last year. Many Buddhist monks were sentenced to long prison terms.

Though both Padma Choling and Qiangba Puncog are ethnic Tibetans, the real power in the region rests with the powerful provincial secretary of the Communist Party, whose current chief is Zhang Qingli, who is a han Chinese. In the wake of the riots in which Chinese owned shops and government offices were attacked, the region was sealed off by the crack troops of the Red Army.

Tibet policy is formulated at the highest level in China by the Communist Party leader and President Hu Jintao. Hu himself served as Tibet Party boss from 1988 to 1992.