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China taps law enforcer to run uneasy Tibetan area

February 20, 2012

BEIJING – A career law-and-order official has been tapped to run a Tibetan area at the center of protests against Chinese rule, and is calling for his subordinates to take a hard line against unrest while trying to raise local living standards.

Liu Zuoming 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."

Liu, who is 54 and a member of China's Han Chinese majority, spent the past three decades working his way up the law enforcement bureaucracy in Sichuan and headed the province's justice bureau until his new appointment. In those positions, he would have been at the forefront of efforts to combine pro-growth policies and improved social welfare with strict policing and, in Tibetan areas, controls on religion.

Aba, a sprawling region that rises from the Sichuan plain up steep valleys to the Tibetan plateau, saw some of the most violent 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 year.

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