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China appoints ex-soldier as Tibet governor

Soldiers patrol the plaza in front of the Potala in Lhasa, former palace of the Dalai Lama - 21 June 2008
Tensions in Tibet exploded into deadly riots in 2008

China has chosen a former soldier as the new governor of Tibet after the previous one resigned unexpectedly.

The new governor, Padma Choling, is an ethnic Tibetan who served 17 years in China's army before joining the regional government, state media said.

The previous governor, Qiangba Puncog, was in office during deadly riots that shook Tibet in early 2008.

The most powerful official in Tibet remains local Communist Party boss Zhang Qingli.

He too is a former military man, suggesting China sees Tibet as an issue of military control, analysts say.

Tibet is a resource-rich, mountainous region strategically bordering India, Nepal, Pakistan and Burma.

The region is notionally autonomous but policy for the region is tightly controlled by the central government in Beijing.

Rapid development

Padma Choling, 58, became vice-governor of Tibet in 2003. His appointment to the governorship is part of a leadership shuffle that that has also seen his predecessor named head of the Regional People's Congress, Xinhua news agency said.

Tibet, like much of China, has seen rapid development in recent years, including the completion in 2006 of the world's longest high-altitude railway connecting the capital Lhasa with the rest of the country.

China says it ended serfdom in Tibet after its troops entered the territory in 1950 and has greatly lifted living standards for the population.

But increased migration of Han Chinese, the country's dominant ethnic group, has brought fears that Tibet's unique culture and way of life is being eroded.

Tensions exploded in March 2008 after protests led by Buddhist monks against China's rule turned violent and spread across Tibetan areas of China.

China says at least 19 people were killed by the rioters - but Tibetan exiles say that nearly 100 were killed by the Chinese security forces.



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