Chinese official shot dead in Tibetan area

BEIJING Thu Jun 19, 2014 1:38am EDT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - An official in charge of preserving social stability was shot dead in a mountainous area of a Tibetan prefecture in southwestern China last week, state media reported.

Simmering ethnic tension in the region has spurred at least 119 Tibetans to set themselves alight in protests against Chinese rule since 2009, often in heavily Tibetan areas of the provinces of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai. Most have died.

The government's stability drive ranges from crackdowns on protests against land seizures to internet censorship and muffling the dissent of religious and ethnic minorities.

The 36-year-old victim, Zhang Wei, was an ethnic Tibetan official with the ruling Communist Party's stability preservation authority in the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of China's Sichuan province.

Zhang was killed in an attack on Saturday as he led a team returning from an assignment to keep order among villagers during the harvest of valuable caterpillar fungus, the official China News Service reported late on Wednesday, citing the local government.

The report did not say how many attackers were involved but said police had identified a 35-year-old Tibetan man, Xue Xia, as a major suspect, and offered a 500,000 yuan ($80,500) bounty for information leading to his capture.($1=6.2090 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Li Hui and Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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