China’s ongoing demolition at the Yachen Gar Tibetan Buddhist center in Sichuan province has removed “five to six thousand homes” and led to the eviction of a similar number of monks and nuns, a source in the region told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Tuesday.
The source told RFA that so far almost six thousand monks and nuns have been evicted from their homes in Yachen Gar. Most were from the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), to the west of Sichuan.
“Yachen Gar once had about 13,000 dormitories that housed Tibetan monks and nuns, but now almost five to six thousand dormitories have been demolished,” said the source, who requested anonymity.
“Many of those monks and nuns who still dwell in Yachen Gar come from the Palyul (in Chinese, Baidu) and Ba area, with a few from Dzachu,” said the source.
“The evictees who were from Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) have much less hope of getting back into any monastic institutions to practice Buddhism,” added the source.
The latest account from the region, which is remote and under heavy Chinese security, follows a report issued Monday by the advocacy group Free Tibet which carried satellite images it said “verify that large-scale demolitions have leveled almost half” of the complex.
“The demolitions took place in August and are part of a long-term effort by Chinese Communist Party authorities to cut the number of residents at the site,” said Free Tibet.
“Satellite images from before and after the most recent demolitions show a clear contrast on the west bank of the river running through Yachen Gar, with a densely-populated area of the community now removed and bare ground where it once stood,” it said.
Free Tibet noted the difficulty of getting information about the complex and the demolition.
“Foreign visitors are currently barred from the area and Chinese authorities have increased levels of surveillance inside Yachen Gar, with around 600 military personnel now deployed there to monitor the inhabitants,” it said.
The Free Tibet report traced similar developments as an Aug. 28 RFA report that found that nearly half of the sprawling complex had been turned into a vast patch of grass.
Demolition of the nuns’ dwellings the sprawling center began on July 19 and moved ahead quickly, a Tibetan living in the area told RFA at the time.
The destruction followed the forced removal beginning in May of over 7,000 residents of Yachen Gar, which once housed around 10,000 monks and nuns devoted to scriptural study and meditation.
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 RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Paul Eckert.