Dharamshala — As official demolition of Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in Serta County in eastern Tibet continues, Chinese authorities have unlawfully expelled hundreds more monks and nuns from the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, leaving many of those left behind fainting and in tears over the forced patriotic reeducation in Tibet.
A group of 500 monks and nuns forcibly removed on December 24, mostly came originally from the Golok County (Ch: Guoluo Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province), and they were taken away on government buses and military trucks at Chinese government expense, TPI sources said, adding: "A group of over one hundred nuns were also forcibly expelled from the Buddhist Academy, on December 28."
'Witnesses to their departure were distressed and brokenhearted over being expelled from their Buddhist Academy. Over 10 monks and nuns were hospitalized after they reportedly fainted,' the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Though authorities at first ignored the incident, saying that the faintings had been faked, the affected monks and nuns were later taken to a hospital for emergency treatment, the source said, adding that a temporary camp of two-story buildings similar to a camp already created in the County has now been set up in Golok to receive the monks and nuns native to that area who were expelled last week from Larung Gar, the sources further said.
Chinese authorities in Kare County have apparently tightened restrictions on anyone planning to study at the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, reportedly forcing any potential students to first pass a 'political examination' administered by the police. An official of the religious affairs bureau in the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture said anyone wanting to study Tibetan Buddhism must now pass a 'political examination' administered by the police. He said, "you'll have to pass a political examination administered by the police first; they won't grant you a permit unless you pass it. In the past, anyone could go there and study, but now it has got pretty big, and they are gradually bringing it under control."
In August and September, Chinese authorities allegedly expelled over 1000 monks and nuns from Larung Gar Buddhist Academy and forcing them to "participate in patriotic re-education" campaign. "Over 1000 monks and nuns were expelled from Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in Serta since August last year, that includes 400 who had originally come from Amdo Golok County, 300 from Kham Yulshul County, and another 300 from Kham Riwoche in Chamdo County," TPI previously reported, citing contacts in the region.
On September 30, over 700 monks and nuns were expelled from Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, that includes 400 from Golok County and 300 from Yulshul County. In September, over 300 monks and nuns expelled from Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, reportedly detained by Chinese police, when they were returned to their homes in Kham Riwoche, Chamdo County, eastern Tibet, but the exact place where they were held unknown.
"Similarly, several were detained by police in Dza Sershul County when they were returning to their home in September. However it is unknown whether they were forced to participate in 'patriotic re-education' campaign," the same source told TPI, speaking on condition of anonymity. Under the patriotic re-education program, hundreds of the expelled monks and nuns who had come from Kham Riwoche, may have to be forcefully moved to a place in Kongpo region in August and reportedly provided instruction on the Chinese government's official version of Tibet's history as well as religious policy and the law, the source added. According to the same source, those who expelled from Larung Gar Buddhist Academy are now forced to participated in a "Patriotic re-education" campaign in Nyingtri Township, Kongpo region since August.
Larung Gar is thought to be one of the biggest communities for the study of Tibetan Buddhism in the world and is largely populated by monks and nuns. Designated an institute, rather than any kind of monastery, the settlement was founded in 1980 by Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok – this designation has meant Larung Gar has not had to deal with China's strict rules on monasteries.
Today, peaceful monks and nuns at Larung Gar are struggling to preserve their homes. Destruction has already started, threatening religious practice and culture in Tibet. Despite protests across the world against repressive actions by Chinese authorities in Larung Gar, a centre for the study of Tibetan Buddhism in eastern Tibet (Ch: Sichuan province). Tibetans say that the town is seeing demolitions and forced removals for the second time in 15 years, as the Chinese government says it must bring down the town's "population."
However, the true population figures are debated – some think it around 10,000 while others estimate put it as high as 40,000. Chinese authorities have said that population must be 5,000 by the end of September 2017. One source previously said that because of local politics, no one wants to admit the real number."
Tibetan nun, Rinzin Dolma, committed suicide on July 20, the first day of the demolition. She left a note saying she “could not bear the pain of the endless Chinese harassment of innocent Buddhists who quietly studied at the institute.” Two more nuns have also reportedly committed suicide.
“The demolition of Larung Gar is the tip of the iceberg in China’s systematic assault on Tibet’s religion and culture. China must be held accountable and world leaders must condemn such actions - our silence only emboldens the Chinese government to intensify their violence on Tibetans.”
“Over 5000 resident monks and nuns have now been displaced. They have not just lost their home and their religious community but their sense of belonging and safety," says Canadian MP Arif Virani.
“The order to demolish much of Larung Gar monastery is a step backward in the government’s policy on religion, by imposing such stringent demands on such a prominent monastery, the government is raising alarms for religious institutions across China.
If authorities somehow believe that the Larung Gar facilities are overcrowded, the answer is simple: allow Tibetans and other Buddhists to build more monasteries. China's government should respect its own constitution and international legal obligations and permit full freedom of religious practice." says Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch's China Director.
“On the one hand, China says there is a religious freedom and showcase some kind of teachings by some Lama, while on the other hand, it destroys buildings where monks and nuns reside in the Larung Gar complex." said the Tibetan Government-In-Exile Prime Minister Dr Lobsang Sangay.
“We urge authorities to cease actions that may escalate tensions and to pursue forthright consultations with the institute’s leaders to address any safety concerns in a way that does not infringe on the right of Tibetans to practice their religion freely” says US State Department Press Office Director Elizabeth Trudeau.
“What the Chinese government is doing to Larung Gar is an atrocity. What this place represents, its tradition and especially the religious freedom of Tibetans, must be respected,” says Chilean MP Vlado Mirosevic Verdugo, and current national president of the Liberal Party of Chile.
“Fundamental rights such as those of religion, peaceful assembly, freedom of association and privacy are being trampled underfoot by a government which appears to be petrified of a religion whose only weapon is love, and message is peace,” says Mangaqa Albert Mncwango, Deputy National Chairperson of South African Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).
“Though the destruction continues and restrictions on travellers to Larung Gar have been imposed by the Chinese government, it is important that these actions not be met with silence and it is important to note that the efforts by people to bring this issue to the attention of the world are not wasted,” said Cheri DiNovo, Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament.
“The demolitions and forced removals in Larung Gar demonstrate the extremes China will go to to control religion. Stand with me in supporting Larung Gar,” says Mayor David J. Narkewicz, City of Northampton.
“...the right to freedom of religious belief in recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and under article 36 of the Chinese constitution. In keeping with these provisions, we strongly urge the central government to investigate the actions of the authorities who have demolished religious buildings, expelled practitioners, and imposed restrictions on religious belief and practice; order the reversal of these misguided policies; provide reparations for the damage caused to date; and simply allow people to practice their faith in peace," says Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
“In addition, we call on the UK Government to raise these matters directly with China; to ask for an immediate diplomatic visit with unrestricted access to Tibet, including Larung Gar and Yachen Gar; to remind the Chinese Government of its duty to respect religious freedom as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in its own constitution; and, to make a public statement expressing serious concern over the situation at Larung Gar and Yachen Gar and the repression of religious activities in Tibet," said Tim Loughton MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet.
“The US has been watching with significant concern as Larung Gar has been assiduously disassembled ... and we do not find the arguments set forth by the Chinese government to be compelling reasons for destroying that monastery," says Sarah Sewall, US Special Coordinator on Tibet.
"The Larung Gar Institute, the largest Tibetan Buddhist centre in the world founded in 1980, is currently facing extensive demolition by the Chinese Government with the objective of downsizing the academy by fifty percent, evicting around 4 600 residents by force and destroying around 1 500 dwellings; whereas according to the Chinese authorities this demolition is necessary in order to carry out ‘correction and rectification. We urge the Chinese authorities to stop the demolition of Larung Gar and the eviction of its residents, and in this way to respect the freedom of religion in accordance with its international commitments in the field of human rights," says the European Parliament.
Tibet was invaded by Communist China in 1949. Since that time, over 1.2 million out of 6 million Tibetans have been killed, over 6000 monasteries have been destroyed— the acts of murder, rape and arbitrary imprisonment, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment were inflicted on the Tibetans inside Tibet. Beijing continues to call this a "peaceful liberation".