Tourists and other foreign visitors are being kept away from the large Yachen Gar Tibetan Buddhist complex in western China’s Sichuan province, a French journalist and recent traveler to the area says.
Yachen Gar, located in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture’s Palyul (Baiyu) county and founded in 1985, until recently housed an estimated 10,000 residents devoted to scriptural study and meditation, but received few outsiders due to its remote location.
Now, authorities have restricted access to the sprawling complex and areas nearby, Brice Pedroletti, a reporter for Le Monde, told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“There are now heavy restrictions for tourists traveling in Tibetan areas, even when they carry visas allowing them to travel,” Pedroletti said.
Arriving at Yachen Gar in a rented car on Feb. 18 of this year, Pedroletti and three traveling companions were quickly approached and questioned by police, he said.
“Suddenly six plainclothes police officers came to the restaurant where we had gone for some food and asked questions concerning where we had come from and where we were going,” Pedroletti said. “And soon even more police arrived and questioned us too.”
“We told them that we were tourists with documents allowing us to visit Yachen Gar, but this did not convince them,” Pedroletti said.
Members of Yachen Gar’s state-controlled management committee then arrived, and Pedroletti and his group were questioned for five hours, he said.
“They also searched our cameras and ordered us to leave the area by 9:00 the next morning, putting us in a hotel under guard.”
“They chased us away the next day, and we could not see Yachen Gar or the [Larung Gar] complex in nearby Serthar [Seda] county,” he said.
Restrictions on Yachen Gar and the better-known Larung Gar complex in Serthar are part of “an unfolding political strategy” aimed at controlling the influence and growth of these important centers for Tibetan Buddhist study and practice, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said in a March 13 report, “Shadow of Dust Across the Sun.”
“[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,” ICT said in its report.
Reported by Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.