Chen Kuiyuan was appointed party secretary in Lhasa after China's 14th Communist Party Congress last October, when his predecessor, the 49-year-old Hu Jintao, became the youngest-ever member of the party's highest body, the Politburo Standing Committee. Previously Mr Chen held a senior post in Inner Mongolia, another region where Peking fears separatist tendencies.
In his speech to a party meeting in Lhasa, obtained by the International Campaign for Tibet, Mr Chen singled out the children of the former ruling class in Tibet for attack, saying they had taken over some government bodies. Even though 'the class enemy, as a class, has been eliminated,' he said, 'these people are still there and their children are trying to restore the old system'. Independent observers who have seen the document believe it is authentic.
The speech indicates that Chinese attempts to create a loyal class of Tibetan administrators have failed, says the lobby group. Prominent Tibetans once denounced as reactionaries were rehabilitated during the 1980s in an attempt to broaden support for Chinese rule, but Mr Chen's speech indicates a new tack.
His broadside echoes one published more than a year ago in an official newspaper, Tibet Daily, which complained: 'A section of party leaders and cadres, including some leaders . . . don't believe in Marxism-Leninism and socialism, and openly believe in religion and seek Buddha. They have made the political hooligan the Dalai Lama their spiritual pillar and hope.' Mr Chen criticised a 'great number' of Tibetan cadres, including some of very high rank, for displaying pictures of the Dalai Lama in their homes. This had to be taken very seriously; cadres had to remember they were atheists.
Both the latest speech and the newspaper use rhetoric not heard outside Tibet since the Cultural Revolution, reflecting Peking's difficulties in winning acceptance. Tibet is the only 'autonomous region' where China has never felt able to appoint a member of the local minority as party chief. According to the International Campaign for Tibet, Mr Chen has brought several hundred Chinese cadres with him to replace Tibetans at the county and prefectural government level.
A member of the Dalai Lama's government in exile in India said the new party secretary could be reacting to a speech last year by the spiritual leader, addressed to Tibetans in government positions. He promised that once Tibet achieved its independence, even those Tibetans who had stayed behind and worked with the Chinese would be given a major role in the new government.
'I think many of these Tibetans feel totally relieved that they won't be arrested or hanged once we regain independence and that they'll have a part to play,' said the official. Another possibility was that the Communist Party, which is seeking to implement economic reform policies in Tibet, is cracking down on local cadres to make sure that unwanted civil liberties do not follow.
The official added that there had been no evidence of subversion by Tibetan party cadres, though some had tried to bring parts of Tibet annexed by other Chinese provinces back under the administrative control of Lhasa.
China's sensitivity about the Dalai Lama was shown in its unsuccessful attempt to persuade Thailand to deny him a visa for his first visit since 1967. He has joined other Nobel Peace laureates there to put pressure on neighbouring Burma to release Aung San Suu Kyi, another winner of the prize, who has been under house arrest since July 1989.