Tibetan Nun Expelled From Buddhist Center Commits Suicide in Internment Camp

Yarchen-Gar.jpg A satellite image of the Yachen Gar Buddhist Center, Aug. 24, 2019
Free Tibet

A Tibetan nun who was expelled from a Buddhist center in a Tibetan area of Sichuan province and placed in an internment camp has committed suicide because she could not bear the hardship of life in detention, according to a source from inside the region.

The nun, whose name has not been identified, was among thousands of Tibetans living at the Yachen Gar Buddhist study center that were evicted from their homes after authorities razed nearly half of the 13,000 dormitories housing members of the clergy in August 2019, a source who lives at the center told RFA’s Tibetan Service on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.

“A Tibetan nun was among those who were held in an internment camp after being removed from Yachen Gar last year,” said the source, who had visited the camp, adding that the nun was originally from Jomda (in Chinese, Jiangda) county in the Tibet Autonomous Region’s (TAR) Chamdo (Changdu) prefecture.

“She was defiant of the political reeducation in the camp and always protested against the Chinese officials’ instruction and education, which often resulted in her being beaten. The management and reeducation instructor in the camp had developed a dislike for her attitude.”

According to the source, the nun was last year taken to the hospital “without any apparent health-related issues,” leading her to protest and refuse to take medicine prescribed for her by medical staff.

“Consequently, even the doctors thrashed her,” said the source.

“Owing to these incidents, the nun was called back to the internment camp. Finding the hardships she endured in the camp unbearable, she chose to end her life.”

The source, who said he feared for his safety while speaking to RFA, hung up the phone before he was able to provide details about when and how the nun killed herself.

Monk officials fired

Meanwhile, a second source told RFA that three monk officials at Yachen Gar were arrested by authorities last year while the razing of dormitories was underway.

“After the demolition at Yachen Gar last year, Chinese public security officers covertly entered the center in the middle of the night and arrested four high-ranking monk officials, who were expelled from the monastery,” said the source, who also declined to be named.

“The Chinese authorities have since expelled those monk officials.”

According to the source, Yachen Gar has been “under tight restrictions” since last year.

“Traveling to and from Yachen Gar meant being subjected to close surveillance,” he said.

“Travelers passing through the area were strictly prohibited from sharing photos or video of the center on [online messaging platform] WeChat.”

The source confirmed earlier reports that prior to the razing of homes at Yachen Gar, there were estimated to be at least 10,000 monks and nuns living at the center, but that afterwards as many as 7,000 were removed—mostly those from areas of the TAR.

Large-scale demolitions

In October last year, sources told RFA that China’s demolition at Yachen Gar had removed “five to six thousand homes” and led to the eviction of a similar number of monks and nuns.

The account from the region, which is remote and under heavy Chinese security, followed a report issued by the advocacy group Free Tibet which carried satellite images it said “verify that large-scale demolitions have leveled almost half” of the complex.

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.

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 and translated by Kalden Lodoe for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.


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