. China News .

China mayor watch scandal stirs online resentment
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Dec 6, 2012

US 'concerned' over Tibet violence, calls for more rights
Washington (AFP) Dec 6, 2012 - The United States expressed concern over self-immolations in Tibet, and called on China to let residents "express their grievances freely" following a spike in violence in the Himalayan region.

Washington also urged Beijing to talk with the Dalai Lama "without preconditions" and to allow journalists, diplomats "and other observers unrestricted access to China's Tibetan areas."

The United States "is deeply concerned and saddened by the continuing violence" in Tibet, the State Department said late Wednesday.

Official Chinese rhetoric "that denigrates the Tibetan language, the Dalai Lama, and those who have self-immolated has further exacerbated tensions," read the statement, signed by Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Maria Otero.

More than 90 Tibetans have set themselves alight since 2009 to protest China's rule of the Tibetan plateau. The number of incidents sharply increased in November.

Top US officials "have directly raised the issue of Tibetan self-immolations with their Chinese government counterparts," Otero wrote.

Washington calls on Beijing "to permit Tibetans to express their grievances freely, publicly, peacefully, and without fear of retribution. We hope that the tragic acts of self-immolation end."

Beijing regularly accuses the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, of inciting the burnings.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since 1959, when he fled an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet.

Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of repressing their religious freedom and eroding their culture, as the country's majority Han Chinese ethnic group increasingly moves into historically Tibetan areas.

Photographs of a Chinese city mayor apparently wearing expensive luxury watches have provoked widespread derision online, with some web users comparing officials to watch models.

Yuan Zhanting, the mayor of Lanzhou, the capital of China's relatively poor northwestern province of Gansu, is the latest Chinese official to be accused in social media of wearing expensive timepieces.

An Internet user posted pictures of him wearing a total of five luxury wristwatches, the state-run Global Times said. One of them, an Omega, was worth 150,000 yuan ($24,000).

Zhou Lubao posted the images on Sina Weibo -- a website similar to Twitter -- in protest at the Lanzhou government sentencing a woman to a year of re-education through labour, a local report said.

It quoted him as saying he had received multiple phone calls from authorities in Lanzhou and Beijing requesting that he delete the photos.

"Our officials are turning into models for luxury watches," one weibo user wrote.

Another said: "According to logic, officials who love expensive watches must love women even more... how many houses and how much money does he have?"

Yuan, 51, told a local newspaper that he had seen the pictures, adding that "the Gansu government is dealing with it" and declining to make further comments.

A statement posted on the website of Gansu's provincial government dated Wednesday said it was "paying great attention" to the images and was "already confirming the situation".

Yuan is not the first timepiece aficionado to have been ensnared by China's online commentators.

Yang Dacai, an official in the central province of Shaanxi, was sacked earlier this year after web users posted photographs of him wearing watches said to be worth more than 300,000 yuan.

A discipline commission also found he had committed "inappropriate 'smiling face' behaviour" by grinning at the scene of a fatal road accident.

But while China's 538 million Internet users are able to use microblogs to accuse local officials of corruption, posts making negative references to the country's most powerful politicians are regularly deleted by online censors.

Chinese mayors have substantial influence over government projects, but have a lower political status than Communist party secretaries assigned to each city.


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