by Xinhua writer Zhou Yan
LHASA, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- Tibet's new governor pledged to make social stability and national unity the priority of his administration after the regional parliament unanimously elected him to the post Friday.
Padma Choling, formerly vice-chairman of the regional government, was elected at the regional parliamentary session of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.
The undated photo shows Padma Choling, newly-elected governor of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. Padma Choling, a native Tibetan and former armyman, was elected governor of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region Friday at the regional parliamentary session. (Xinhua Photo)
He replaces Qiangba Puncog as head of the regional government, the eighth person to take up the post since the Tibet Autonomous Region was founded in 1965.
"It's a great honor, as well as a heavy responsibility," he said at a press conference shortly after the election. "I have the determination and confidence to live up to everyone's expectations."
His six-minute speech to the press focused on the regional government's adherence to the Chinese Communist Party rule, as well as its role in bolstering economic growth, improving people's welfare, and maintaining social stability.
"Stability is of overwhelming importance," he said. "We will firmly oppose all attempts at secession, safeguard national unification and security, and maintain unity among different ethnic groups in Tibet."
Padma Choling, born in 1951, is a native of Dengqen in Qamdo Prefecture. Padma means "lotus" in Tibetan and Choling means "immense beneficence."
He served 17 years in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) from 1969 to 1986, before he became an official in Tibet's regional government.
He was elected vice-chairman of the regional government in 2003.
Earlier this month, he replaced Legqog as deputy secretary of Tibet's regional committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
"In contrast to his predecessor, the slender, bespectacled and soft-spoken Qiangba Puncog, Padma Choling is firm and strong-willed," a source close to the two officials said on condition of anonymity. "Many Tibetans admire Qiangba Puncog as a man of wisdom, and Padma Choling, a man of valor."
Tsering Norbu, a journalist with a local Tibetan newspaper, sees the new governor as "a man with a twofold personality".
"He looks stern, but if you get closer to him, you'll find he's an amiable person. He's straightforward and always gives explicit answers to questions."
Tsering Norbu recalled the two sleepless nights after the most destructive earthquake in recent decades hit Damxung, an outer county of the regional capital Lhasa, in October 2008.
"Padma Choling worked those two nights in a tent that served asthe emergency rescue headquarters," he said. "He, too, didn't sleep and his eyes were red and swollen. He told me the residents were scared and in desperate need of information, and pressed us to produce good stories."
The undated photo shows Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Regional People's Congress of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.(Xinhua Photo)
Former governor Qiangba Puncog was elected chairman of the Standing Committee of the Regional People's Congress, replacing former parliament leader Legqog who, at 66, has reached retirement age.
Qiangba Puncog, born in 1947, served as Tibet's governor for nearly seven years.
A mechanics major from Chongqing University in the southwestern Chongqing Municipality, Qiangba Puncog was among the first Tibetans to receive a college education.
Special Report: Focus on Tibet