China's state media say the former head of the Communist Party of China in Tibet has been appointed party chief in another province where religious dissent has been a problem for Beijing authorities.
The official Xinhua news agency reported late Sunday that hard-liner Zhang Qingli, who gained a reputation for cracking down on dissent in Buddhist Tibet, is being moved to the province of Hebei, which is home to about a quarter of China's 8 million to 12 million underground Roman Catholics.
His new position will give Zhang an influential role in China's relationship with the Vatican, which opposes Beijing's control of the church, especially in the appointment of bishops.
Zhang was responsible for putting down deadly riots that erupted in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, in 2008. Police cracked down with tear gas and cattle prods and afterward imposed a heavy security clampdown.
Zhang blamed the riots on the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, denouncing the spiritual leader as a "wolf" and a "jackal in monk's robes."
In recent years, authorities in Hebei, which surrounds Beijing, have detained dozens of priests and lay people who are not affiliated with the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and have raided underground services held in "home churches."