-By International Campaign for Tibet
Dharamshala: The Tibetan capital city of Lhasa has a new Chinese mayor. On Dec. 13, 2022 Wang Qiang replaced Gho Khog, the Tibetan mayor of Lhasa since 2016. This change of leadership comes in the wake of the recent COVID-19 crisis in Lhasa, with similar changes seen in the mayors of Shigatse (Chinese: Rikaze) and Chamdo (Changdu), other cities in Tibet that were hit hard by COVID.
While Wang Qiang (Chinese) replaced Gho Khog (Tibetan) as the mayor of Lhasa, Wang Fanghong (Chinese) replaced Zhou Feng (Chinese) as mayor of Shigatse, and Luo Qingwu (Tibetan) replaced Chen Jun (Chinese) as mayor of Chamdo. All three new mayors were appointed on the same day.
Although Chinese propaganda depict mayors as being elected by the local legislative body, mayors in Tibet are in effect selected by the Chinese Communist Party, as the party has the final say in the selection process. Through the office of the Mayor, the CCP shapes policy and decision-making in Lhasa by influencing the budget and agenda for the local government and shaping public discourse. Mayors serve as a key link between Beijing and the local level in ensuring that Beijing’s goals and objectives are achieved within Tibetan areas. Although mayors do not make policy decisions, they have strong influence on the policymaking process and its resultant decisions.
Composition of the Lhasa government
With the appointment of Wang Qiang as the mayor of Lhasa, the Tibetan capital city is run almost entirely by Chinese, with a Chinese person also serving as the head of Lhasa government. The 12th People’s Congress in November 2021 announced that Gho Khog was reappointed as the Mayor with 14 Vice-Mayors. Although Gho Khog was Tibetan, 11 of the Vice-Mayors were Chinese and three were Tibetans, making the composition 79% Chinese and 21% Tibetan. With Wang Qiang replacing Gho Khog, both the head and the deputy heads of the Lhasa government are clearly commanded and controlled by Chinese, with at least six of them (three each from Beijing and Jiangsu) holding the designation of “aid-to-Tibet” cadres. Similarly, the local governments of Shigatse and Chamdo are run by Chinese with Tibetans accounting for around 30% in the leadership positions.
Between the beginning of the reform and opening era of the 1980s until Xi Jinping’s ascendency as the General Secretary of the Party in 2012, the position of Mayor of Lhasa had been held by Tibetans. Click here to read more.