Michael Sheridan, Far East Correspondent
The architects of Chinese repression in Tibet are three senior bureaucrats little known to the outside world but destined to be the focus of condemnation from human rights groups in the months ahead.
China preserves the facade of an autonomous regional government and has paraded its ethnic Tibetan figureheads over the past week. Chinese researchers say they are political nonentities.
The real mastermind of Chinese policy towards the restive ethnic minorities is a 67-year-old lifetime communist functionary named Wang Lequan.
Wang has proclaimed himself to be the top terrorist target in China. Nominally, he heads the party in Xinjiang, which, like Tibet, is a vast, remote and resource-rich region troubled by separatism
However, Wang sits on the powerful politburo in Beijing and has assumed overall direction of policy in both places. He devised the model that has stifled Muslim culture in Xinjiang, staged political trials and executions, poured in millions of Chinese settlers and extracted mineral and energy resources to feed the economy.
Wang almost never gives interviews and operates behind the scenes, but on March 10 he gave away the extent of his responsibility by telling China Central Broadcasting: “No matter what nationality, no matter who it is, wreckers, separatists and terrorists will be smashed by us. There’s no doubt about that.”
His henchman, now applying the master’s methods in Tibet, is Zhang Qingli, the region’s sharp-tongued party secretary. Zhang is the man who called the Dalai Lama “a wolf in monk’s clothes, a devil with a human face”. He rose up the hierarchy in Xinjiang and was transferred to Tibet in 2005 as a reward for his loyalty.
He accelerated campaigns against Tibetan culture and religion, brought in more settlers and stepped up the commercial exploitation of Tibet’s huge reserves of raw materials.
Zhang is on record as saying that “those who do not love the motherland are not qualified to be human beings”.
The third most influential figure is Li Dezhu, the party’s racial theoretician. Until recently the head of its innocuous-sounding Ethnic Affairs Commission, Li wrote the textbook on destroying independent cultures and disintegrating religious minorities by promoting materialism.
In 2007 he elaborated the theory of what he called “cultural security” for China in an article in a party journal called Seeking Truth. In it he unfolded a radical change in Chinese policy, stating that its aim was no longer to preserve minority cultures such as the Tibetans but to refashion them.
Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch says Li is the first leader explicitly to state that the problem of minorities would be “definitively solved” by mass Chinese migration.