DHARAMSHALA, July 22: China's propaganda chief, on a visit to Tibet last week, underlined the importance of maintaining stability and ordered officials to intensify the fight against separatism in the restive region.
Li Changchun, ranked fifth in the hierarchy of the ruling Communist Party, was on a five-day visit to Tibet's Nyingtri and Lhasa, places where Beijing plans to undertake multi-billion dollar tourism projects.
"The lifeblood of Tibet rests in ethnic unity, social harmony and stability," the Party’s mouthpiece People’s Daily paper quoted Li as saying.
"We must guide officials and the people to continually strengthen their understanding of the great (Chinese) motherland and people and deepen and expand the fight against separatism."
Li also pushed for an education campaign to "underscore the historic fact that Tibet is an inseparable part of China," which should form "the ideological basis for the fight against separatism and the maintenance of stability."
The propaganda chief visited the headquarters of the Tibet Daily and its news website, asking the staff to "introduce a real and changing Tibet to the whole world."
In the ancient Tibetan capital city, the senior Chinese leader visited the Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple, the site of a twin self-immolation protest against Chinese rule in May this year.
According to the paper, at the Jokhang Temple, Li gave offerings to the monastery, encouraging the monks there to be patriotic and devout and make contributions to ethnic unity and the ethnic cultural development.
On May 27, Dhargey, 25 and Dorjee Tseten, 19
set themselves on fire in front of the historic Jokhang Temple demanding freedom in Tibet and the return of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Since then, seven more Tibetans have self-immolated, taking the toll to 45.
Following their fiery protests, Lhasa has been reeling under a heavy security lockdown with hundreds of Tibetans reportedly detained, including many who had witnessed the self-immolations. Tibetans from outside central Tibet have been arbitrarily expelled in large numbers.
Last month, New York based Human Rights Watch in a release said China’s “drastic” security drive and “extreme measures” could further “deepen” tensions on the plateau.
Tibet, for the second time this year, remains closed to outside visitors.