Free Tibet condemns forced evictions at Tibet’s largest monastery

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Around 8am (local time) yesterday, a Chinese work team accompanied by police, government officials and soldiers in plain clothes began demolishing structures at Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in Sertar County in eastern Tibet (1). Photos (2) and video (3) from the scene show residences in the monastery that have been pulled down by digging equipment.

 

Larung Gar is currently the largest Tibetan Buddhist institute in the world, holding over 10,000 people. In June authorities in Sertar County distributed an order requiring the monastery to cut its numbers down to 5,000 people (1,500 monks and 3,500 nuns) by October 2017 as part of a restructuring process required by national government (4). The order gave instructions for the phased removal of residents, with 30 October this year set as the deadline for the first wave of removals and demolitions. The order detailed a list of punishments that would be imposed if the deadlines were not met. These included further expulsions and even the demolition of the entire monastery (5). The residents of Larung Gar were not consulted about the demolitions and removals, and prior to the order being issued, were not provided with any explanation for why they were taking place.

 

Tibetans reacted to the news of the demolition with dismay. One Tibetan, living in Tibet, wrote:

 

“This very day of destroying the heaven, the pain and hurt at my heart comes from deep inside with ceaseless tears” (6).

 

Chinese officials have justified the demolitions at Larung Gar as a safety measure due to overcrowding (7).   A student living in Larung Gar monastery questioned this explanation and said:

 

“If the only way to solve the over population is destroying the houses, then why is the same policy not implemented in the Chinese cities and towns where the population is overcrowded? Where is the equality, rule by law, public welfare, religious freedom and equal rights of all nationalities (as they say) if you crush down the houses of innocent religious practitioners who are living simple lives?” (8)

 

Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:

 

“One of Larung Gar’s students makes reference to Chinese law and policy and rightly questions why the Chinese government does not adopt the same approach in overcrowded Chinese areas.  Once again, China’s talk of equality rings hollow and empty.  The demolition at Larung Gar is clearly nothing to do with overcrowding - it is just another tactic in China’s attempt to subvert the influence of Buddhism in Tibet.  The order document says that monks and nuns in Larung Gar must be separated from the local lay people.  This gives us some insight into China’s real motivation.  They are bringing violence to a place of peace and spirituality.  They are making around 5,000 monks and nuns homeless.  China likes to talk about religious freedom but their actions at Larung Gar cannot be justified and show us how they really feel about Tibetan Buddhism.”

 

For further information or comment, contact director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren:

 

E: eleanor@freetibet.org

T: +44 (0)207 324 4605

 

Notes for editors

  1. Location: Serta County, Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province. 
  2. Pictures available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/albums/72157671257956316
  3. Video available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqlAZOqE9J8
  4. For the full order in English and Chinese, see Human Rights Watch, Serta County Order on Larung Gar Monastery, 9 June 2016 https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/06/09/serta-county-order-larung-gar-monastery
  5. For further background on the demolition order and the significance of Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, see Free Tibet, 'Buddhist monastery at risk of demolition, 13 June 2016 https://www.freetibet.org/news-media/na/buddhist-monastery-risk-demolition
  6. Social media post obtained by Free Tibet’s research partner Tibet Watch. Name withheld for security reasons.
  7. A response to the demolition order issued by the media outlet Gazni Xinwen states that the demolition works are required to increase safety at Larung Gar. Ganzi Xinwen (Chinese), 10 June 2016 http://www.ganzixinwen.com/wh/kzrw/zxzj/n9662.html
  8. Social media post obtained by Tibet Watch. Name withheld for security reasons.