Authorities in western China’s Sichuan province have begun a campaign of large-scale demolition at the Yachen Gar Tibetan Buddhist center, with Chinese work crews tearing down over a hundred dwellings of nuns evicted from the complex in recent weeks, Tibetan sources say.
The destruction follows the forced removal beginning in May of over 7,000 residents of the sprawling center in Palyul (in Chinese, Baidu) county, which once housed around 10,000 monks and nuns devoted to scriptural study and meditation.
Demolition of the nuns’ dwellings began on July 19 and moved ahead quickly, with at least 100 structures now torn down, a Tibetan living in the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Friday.
“The heavy machinery rolled out at Yachen Gar includes excavators, bulldozers, and dump trucks,” RFA’s source said, adding, “For now, it is only the nuns’ dwellings that are being targeted, but soon after this it will be the houses of the monks.”
On July 20, dump trucks hauled the wreckage of the structures already destroyed to a vacant area called Nyithang Yultso and piled it there to be burned, the source said.
“After each day’s work, the men and machines are now moved to rest for the night in a fenced enclosure on the outskirts of Yachen Gar close to a military camp,” he said.
The destruction of the nuns' homes marks the first move by officials to raze large sections of Yachen Gar, with only the destruction of from 60 to 70 dwellings to create fire lanes in the crowded center reported earlier this month.
Senior monks and administrators at Yachen Gar have written over 40 petitions so far to Chinese authorities “at all levels,” appealing for a halt to the removals and destruction, but their requests have been rejected, the source said.
“When they go to the relevant Chinese offices and departments to appeal, the Chinese officials reprimand them by pointing their fingers in their faces, and have even slapped them,” he said.
“Those in charge at Yachen Gar have endured all of this silently in the hope that their petitions will be heard, but in vain.”
Many of those expelled from Yachen Gar are now being held in detention and subjected to political re-education and beatings, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
Chinese officials have meanwhile been stationed at the center to “maintain a tight watch” over those who remain and to check on all outside visitors, while travel to and from the center is strictly monitored and restricted, sources say.
An unfolding strategy
Restrictions on Yachen Gar and the better-known Larung Gar complex in Sichuan’s Serthar (Seda) county are part of “an unfolding political strategy” aimed at controlling the influence and growth of these important centers for Tibetan Buddhist study and practice, a Tibetan advocacy group said in a March 2017 report.
“[Both centers] have drawn thousands of Chinese practitioners to study Buddhist ethics and receive spiritual teaching since their establishment, and have bridged Tibetan and Chinese communities,” the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet said.
During 2017 and 2018, at least 4,820 Tibetan and Han Chinese monks and nuns were removed from Larung Gar, with over 7,000 dwellings and other structures torn down beginning in 2001, according to sources in the region.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Tanslated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.