Chinese work crews on Wednesday began to tear down large sections of a sprawling Tibetan Buddhist study center in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, moving ahead under central government orders to reduce the institute’s size.
The demolition at the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county began in the early morning hours, a resident monk told RFA’s Tibetan Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The work started at 8:00 a.m. on July 20, beginning with those structures that were not already recorded in the government’s record of permitted dwellings,” RFA’s source said.
“The work crews are all [Han] Chinese,” he said.
Larung Gar’s monastic leaders have urged the institute’s monks and nuns not to protest or resist the destruction of their homes, and the work is proceeding so far without interference, the source said.
“But with an uncertain future hanging over our heads, we are filled with sadness and sorrow.”
Many thousands of Tibetans and Han Chinese study at Larung Gar, 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 to a maximum level of 5,000 is not a county plan “but comes from higher authorities,” with China’s president Xi Jinping taking a personal interest in the matter, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
“We don’t know how much has already been torn down, as we are not allowed to visit the site,” RFA’s source said.
Larung Gar usually bustles each summer with pilgrims who come from other parts of China and Tibet to visit, “but now there are restrictions on traveling here,” he said.
“Our monks and nuns are consumed with worry, but there is nothing we can do.”
In a statement Thursday, London-based rights group Free Tibet condemned the demolition under way at Larung Gar.
“Whether it is demolitions of monasteries or arresting Tibetans for possessing pictures of the Dalai Lama, religion in Tibet is subject to relentless interference by the Chinese government,” Free Tibet said.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.