Hundreds of Chinese officials have descended on Sichuan’s Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in recent days to question resident monks and nuns about their residency status in order to target them for removal, sources in the region say.
The officials, many of them coming from Tibetan-populated areas outside Sichuan, are now busily going door-to-door collecting information, a resident of the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week.
“Recently, over 300 government officials from different provinces, prefectures, and counties arrived at Larung Gar,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“They are gathering names and information regarding the hometowns and monasteries of the monks and nuns, and are recording all of this [to select individuals for eviction],” the source said.
“At the request of the senior teachers and abbots of the Institute, the monks and nuns are cooperating with these investigations without displaying anger or irritation,” he said.
Many thousands of Tibetans and Han Chinese study at the Larung Gar complex, which was founded in 1980 by the late religious teacher Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok and is one of the world’s largest and most important centers for the study of Tibetan Buddhism.
The order now to reduce the number of Larung Gar’s residents by about half to a maximum level of 5,000 by Sept. 30 next year “comes from higher authorities,” with China’s president Xi Jinping taking a personal interest in the matter, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
Chinese work crews meanwhile continue to demolish structures at the sprawling religious complex in Sichuan’s Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county, with 550 houses torn down between July 20 and Sept. 23, a source at Larung Gar with close knowledge of the situation said.
Authorities have targeted a total of 1,000 monastic dwellings for destruction by the end of this year alone, sources say.
“The list of monks and nuns to be removed from Larung Gar this year must be reported to senior officials by Oct. 30,” RFA’s source said.
Rights groups have slammed the government-ordered destruction at Larung Gar, with New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) saying that Beijing should allow the Tibetan people to decide for themselves how best to practice their religion.
“If authorities somehow believe that the Larung Gar facilities are overcrowded, the answer is simple,” HRW China director Sophie Richardson said in a statement in June, when the plan to destroy large sections of the complex was first announced.
“Allow Tibetans and other Buddhists to build more monasteries.”
Reported by Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.