First Tibetan named deputy minister of United Front in Beijing
TibetInfoNet[Tuesday, September 19, 2006 08:03]
According to a 12 September 2006 report in the Hong Kong based independent Chinese language Newspaper Sing Tao Jih Pao (Pinyin: qingdao ribao), Sita has become the first Tibetan ever to be promoted to the position of Deputy Minister of the Central United Front Ministry (Chin: zhongyang tongzhan bu), a crucial ministry in the Chinese system under the direct control of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Sita now also heads the recently created Seventh Bureau of the United Front which deals with Tibetan affairs. The promotion illustrates the Central Committee of the CPC’s view of Tibet as an issue of major concern at a time when the Dalai Lama has just been awarded honorary citizenship in Canada as well as the Congressional Gold Medal in the US, and the European Parliament published a report critical of China’s Tibet policies. Sita’s promotion also demonstrates their endeavour to present Tibetan affairs as being settled by Tibetans.

The United Front (or United Front Line) is the organ of the CPC devoted to forming 'broad alliances' with non-Party and religious social groups and among the non-Chinese (Han) ethnic population within and outside the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Mao Dzedong once claimed that the United Front is one of the "three main weapons with which we have defeated the enemy", the other two being the Party and the army. Over the years several Tibetans have attained the position of Chairman or Vice Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), placing them in principle at the same rank as Central Government Ministers or Deputy Ministers. However, up to Sita’s promotion, only one Tibetan has ever been an actual Deputy Minister in the Central Government itself: In the 1980s, Dorji Tserang (Tsering), once a chairman of the TAR, was appointed Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Civil Administration when his Chinese wife was transferred back to Beijing due to health problems. However, this Ministry was of minor importance and the move was seen as a gesture toward their family circumstances and recognition for his personal contributions to the Party.

The United Front comprised six different bureaus until 2005 when a seventh bureau was established to deal with Tibetan affairs. The duties of the new bureau are described among others as "to cooperate with relevant parties in struggling against secessionism by enemies, both local and foreign, such as the Dalai Lama clique; and to liaise with overseas Tibetans".

Sita, who is now 52 years old, originates from Eastern Tibet. He is well-known among exile Tibetans in Europe and India through previous placements in the Chinese embassies in Delhi and Geneva, and he has been a member of diverse PRC delegations on international travels. He accompanied the Special Envoys of the Dalai Lama, Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, on trips to Tibetan regions of the PRC, since the United Front is the official host of the Sino-Tibetan dialogue. Prior to his current promotion, Sita held the position of Deputy Head of the Second Bureau which deals with ethnic minorities in general and religious affairs.