Liu Zuoming, a Han Chinese was appointed as Communist Party secretary of Sichuan province's Aba region over the weekend. It is not clear whether his transfer was prompted by the latest unrest or part of a regular rotation of officials. His predecessor in Aba, Shi Jun, was promoted to police chief for Sichuan.
In a speech posted on the Aba government website, Liu told local officials Saturday that they "must correctly handle the relationship between stability and development. There can be not the slightest relaxation on stability, nor the slightest paralysis or laxity."
The 54-year-old has a track record of almost 30 years in law enforcement. The area has seen increased protests and a spate of self-immolations, according to media reports.
Aba, a sprawling region that rises from the Sichuan plain up steep valleys to the Tibetan plateau, saw some of the most biggest protests in a rebellion against Chinese rule in 2008. Since then the government has poured in investment to boost the region's economy and heavy security to prevent unrest, though protests - and self-immolations by monks and nuns - have ticked up over the past few years.
"We must strictly prevent and severely strike at the activities of domestic and foreign hostile forces seeking to split, infiltrate and sabotage," Liu Zuoming was quoted as saying by AFP in a speech he gave to local officials Saturday. "We must thoroughly smash any plot seeking to sabotage the stability of Aba and endanger the unity of the motherland," Liu was further quoted as saying.
International media are denied access to the area, making it difficult to verify conflict accounts. Officials in the restive area are under increasing pressure from the government to contain the protests. Last week, the Chinese Communist Party chief in so called Tibet Automonus Region sacked four officials for ''endangering stability'' in the region, Chinese state controlled media, Xinhua reported.
The officials were alleged to have left their posts in the Chamdho region during the Lunar New Year. The regional government had issued a warning to officials to maintain stability or face dismissal or criminal charges.
In a recent press conference with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on the 14 February, Jiabo claimed that, "What is happening in Tibet is being caused by a few monks encouraged by external forces. "A good example exists in 2008, when Jiabao claimed that the Chinese were not shooting at the Tibetan people, despite graphic, photographic evidence of dead Tibetans," Penpa Tsering, the speaker of Tibetan parliament said in a statement.
The situation in eastern Tibet has remained consistently grim since the March 2011 self-immolation of a Tibetan named Phuntsok. 23 more Tibetans have self-immolated in protest of the Chinese rule in Tibet since then. Lobsang is the 24th Tibetan since 2009 and the seventh in the past 8 days to self-immolate. As many as 19 monks, nuns and ordinary Tibetans have set themselves on fire over the past year.