US State Department criticises demolitions at Larung Gar

Demolitions being carried out at Larung Gar in July 2016
Demolitions being carried out at Larung Gar in July 2016

10th August 2016

State Department also releases Tibetan-language version of human rights report on China and Tibet

The US Department of State has joined in with international criticism of the demolitions carried out last month in Larung Gar Monastery in Tibet. The monastery, based in Sertar County in Kardze, eastern Tibet, was heavily damaged after a Chinese work team carried out demolition work there on the morning of 20 July.

Elizabeth Trudeau, the Director of the Department of State’s Press Office, expressed concern about the demolitions in response to a question at the State Department’s Daily Press Briefing on 8 August. 

After being asked by the journalist about reports of the demolitions, Trudeau said:

“[W]e have seen those reports and we are concerned that Chinese authorities initiated the demolition of residences at Larung Gar Tibetan Buddhist Institute without the consent of the institute’s leaders. We urge authorities to cease actions that may escalate tensions and to pursue forthright consultations with the institute’s leaders to address any safety concerns in a way that does not infringe on the right of Tibetans to practice their religion freely.”

The demolitions in July were part of a long-term plan to cut the size of the monastery, the largest Tibetan Buddhist institution in the world, in half. The order for the demolitions, issued by local authorities earlier this year, has set the deadline for the expulsion of 1,200 of its residents. If the plan is completed then the population of the monastery will have been reduced from 10,000 to 5,000 monks and nuns by October next year.

There was widespread anger and sadness in response to the demolitions at Larung Gar last month, with Free Tibet’s reporting on the demolitions receiving coverage by the BBC, The New York Times and Time Magazine, and being shared widely on social media.

State Department releases human rights report in Tibetan

On Monday the US Department of State also announced that it had produced a Tibetan-language version of the entries on China and Tibet in its annual report on human rights.

Sarah Sewall, the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, made the announcement on Twitter along with a link to the 173-page document. The original report, released in April this year, criticised the “severe repression of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage”, identifying a range of human rights abuses including unlawful killings, extrajudicial detentions, disappearances and torture.

Ms Sewall's responsibilities include being the US government's Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, a role that the US Government is obliged to have under the Tibetan Policy Act, passed by Congress in 2001. The act also requires the commits the US government to supporting dialogue between China and representatives of Tibet and to taking many other measures to try to protect Tibet's lnaguage, culture and people. 

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