As Chinese work crews continue to demolish dwellings at Sichuan’s Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, authorities are forcing many monks and nuns living at the academy back to their family homes in the neighboring Tibet Autonomous Region, sources in the region say.
The move supporting China’s plan to reduce the size of the sprawling complex has been aimed so far only at residents coming from the TAR prefectures of Lhasa (in Chinese, Lasa), Ngari (Ali), Nagchu (Naqu), and Chamdo (Changdu), a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“The family members of monks and nuns from these areas in the TAR have been ordered to come to Larung Gar to take their relatives home,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Academy residents coming from these areas had previously been summoned by authorities and “harassed with questions and ‘political education’ classes,” the source said, adding, “These sessions went on for weeks, and in some cases even months.”
Monks and nuns native to Tibetan-populated areas of China’s Sichuan, Qinghai, and Gansu provinces have so far not been subject to the expulsion order, he said.
“But monks and nuns coming from Driru [Biru] county in Nagchu were among the first forced out,” he said.
“They were warned of ‘consequences’ to their families in Driru if they refused to leave, including their right to collect cordyceps,” a fungus highly valued for its medicinal qualities and an important source of income.
Tibetans in Driru, a county considered “politically unstable” by Chinese authorities, have long resisted forced displays of loyalty to Beijing, which has imposed tight restrictions in the area for the past several years.
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 by about half 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.
Monastic leaders at Larung Gar have urged the institute’s monks and nuns not to resist the destruction of their homes, and the work is believed to have gone ahead so far without interference, though one suicide has been reported.
“Despite the heartbreaking scenes of the demolition of their houses, the monks and nuns at Larung Gar are exercising patience and restraint and hoping for the Buddhist institute’s survival,” RFA’s source said.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.