BEIJING: An influential Communist Party leader in China is asking for completely erasing the legal identity and minority status forTibetans as a means to deal with escalating protests and do some damage-control for the country's image, dented by a spate of self-immolations by Tibetan activists and monks.
The official, an interlocutor with the Dalai Lama's envoys and a key Tibet policymaker, has suggested that the unrest could be quelled if the Tibetans were denied a sepa-rate legal identity in government documents.
Zhu Weiqun, deputy director in the Communist Party's United Front Work Department, asked the two houses of Chinese parliament - the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Cons-ultative Conference - to am-end laws concerning Tibetans during their upcoming annual meetings in March.
He said that mentioning the ethnicity and minority status on identity cards of Tibetans erodes the sense of nationalism and cohesion.
The proposal, which aims to dilute the Dalai Lama's influence in Tibetan areas, follows nearly 20 cases of self-immolation by protesting Tibetans, which triggered calls from several Western governments, including Washington and Paris, demanding that Beijing ensure that the Tibetans are treated fairly.
"Some of our current educational and administrative policies have unintentionally weakened (the minority people's) sense of nationhood and Chinese nationalism," Zhu said in an article. The best way to achieve 'national cohesion' is by stopping to give them separate status as an ethnic minority on identity cards, using ethnic labels in the titles of schools and autonomous regions, and giving them privileges reserved for minorities, Zhu said.