Buddhist monastery at risk of demolition

Larung Gar Buddhist Institute
Larung Gar Buddhist Institute

13th June 2016

Thousands of monks and nuns at risk of removal under government plans

Some 7,000 monks and nuns could be removed from a Buddhist monastery and academy in eastern Tibet after an order distributed by local authorities imposed new limits on the number of people that could stay there. Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, located in Serta County in Kardze, is due to be reduced to 5,000 residents as part of a restructuring process ordered from China’s top government authorities. Under the order the residences of those being removed would also be demolished.

The order, which was sent by the government of Serta County, stated that by October 2017 only 1,500 monks and 3,500 nuns could live on the site, which currently holds well over 10,000 people, making it the largest centre of Buddhist teaching in Tibet. The order gave instructions for the phased removal of residents and threatened further punitive expulsions, and even the demolition of the entire institute, if deadlines were not met.

No reason was given in the order for the demolitions and the residents of Larung Gar do not appear to have been consulted over the measures.

The Larung Gar Monastery in Tibet

Tightening control

The order also imposed a system of joint management on the monastery, with Chinese Communist Party officials outnumbering monastic officials three to two under the new regime. The monastery is required to hand over financial management to Chinese authorities.

Although the order for the demolitions and removals was distributed by the governor of Sertar County, the instructions for them to take place came from China’s national government, with President Xi Jinping reported to be following the process closely.

"No other option"

Students at the monastery and locals reacted with a mixture of sadness and defiance to the order.

One Tibetan asked:

“Why? Why are such a huge number of residences belonging to humble monks and nuns, who are merely seeking their own peace and practising the teachings of Buddha, being destroyed by force?”

Another Tibetan, a student at Larung Gar, suggested that residents would defy the order, saying:

“We did not break any laws. We are not guilty of anything. We are sustaining our own way by abiding by self-responsibility and living a humble life. But when such lawless laws are forcefully bestowed on our head, we have no other option but to take some action”.

Images of destruction at Larung Gar
Images of destruction at Larung Gar
Images of destruction at Larung Gar

Over a decade of destruction

Larung Gar Buddhist Institute was founded in 1980 and went on to become one of the largest centres of Buddhist studies in the world. Among its over current 10,000 residents are students from across Tibet and China, as well as students of other nationalities. This includes monks, nuns and lay people.

Larung Gar has already been subjected to forced removals and parts of its premises being torn down. In 2000 the quarters of over 2,000 monks and nuns were demolished and in 2013 monks and nuns from central Tibet were removed from Larung Gar and sent back to their homes. Some of those removed were given prison sentences ranging from one to six years. Another 1,000 people were ordered to leave the monastery in 2015, including elderly monks and nuns.

Authorities had begun further demolitions and removals in 2016, but this process is currently on hold. Tibetans and international supporters of Tibet have sent the Chinese government messages, urging them to halt further demolitions.

 

Flood of support for imprisoned monk Lomig 

In other news, Free Tibet’s campaign for the imprisoned monk and writer Lomig attracted a flood of appeals and messages from supporters. Supporters wrote over 400 messages of solidarity to Lomig as part of Free Tibet's Robed Resisters campaign.  Lomig was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison in April after his arrest last year, believed to be due to his writings critical of the occupation. Free Tibet has since sent these solidarity messages to Lomig’s prison. Over 1,000 people also wrote to the governor of Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, calling for his immediate release.

Lomig (left) and Sonam Lhatso (right)

Free Tibet’s next Robed Resister is Sonam Lhatso, a nun from Pangri Nunnery in Kardze County. She was arrested in May 2008 while carrying out a peaceful demonstration along with other nuns from Pangri Nunnery. The demonstration was broken up by Chinese security forces, who beat several of the nuns and arrested around fifty. Free Tibet understands that she is imprisoned in Mianyang Prison in China’s Sichuan Province, and is encouraging supporters to write her solidarity messages. Supporters can also add their name to the petition to the governor of Sichuan Province, calling for her to be released.

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