Maintaining stability utmost important to Tibet: Party chief

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Officials and the general public in Tibet should always keep a sober mind and vigilance against anything that could sabotage stability, Party chief of the autonomous region Zhang Qingli said Sunday.

Zhang said Tibet is still facing "very grave challenges" in the fight against separatist activities this year, when the region will mark the 60th anniversary of its peaceful liberation.

Concerted efforts including enhanced management work at the community level should be made to resolve social problems in order to maintain a lasting peace and stability in Tibet, said Zhang, secretary of the regional committee of the Communist Party of China.

Zhang is in Beijing to attend the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature.

"The majority of Tibetan people are unwilling to suffer from social unrest," he said.

"Although our top priority is to realize a leapfrog development, maintaining social stability is of great importance, because without stability, Tibet will not develop," he said during a panel discussion with NPC deputies from Tibet.

He said tourism industry, a key economic pillar for Tibet, suffered a heavy blow after violent riots in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, on March 14, 2008, which resulted in the deaths of at least 18 civilians and one policeman.

The number of visitors to Tibet dropped to 2.6 million in 2008 from more than four million in the previous year, he said.

Tibet is still among the least developed regions in China, "so ensuring the leapfrog development and lasting social stability will be a major theme of our work in Tibet in the next five years," he said.

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