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China to demolish world's largest Buddhist monastery: Human Rights Watch

June 13, 2016

NDTV, June 10, 2016 - China plans to demolish a large part of one of the world's biggest Buddhist monasteries that would leave thousands homeless, Human Rights Watch said today as it appealed to the country to instead negotiate with the Buddhist community.

Chinese authorities should suspend plans to demolish residences at the historic Academy of Larung Gar Buddhist monastery in Sichuan province and negotiate with the community's leadership, the watchdog said in a report released in New York.

The government plans to take over the management and eliminate quarters for all but 5,000 monks, nuns, and others at the monastery, one of the world's largest monastic institutions, by September 2017, cutting numbers there by at least half, it said.

"China's authorities should not be determining the size of monasteries or any other religious institution, but should accept that religious freedom means letting people decide for themselves their religious practices," Sophie Richardson, watchdog's China director said.

"If authorities somehow believe that the Larung Gar facilities are overcrowded, the answer is simple: allow Tibetans and other Buddhists to build more monasteries," she said.

A recent order from the Serta county government in Sichuan provides no reason for the demolitions and dramatic reduction in Larung Gar's population - which consists of at least 10,000 monks, nuns, and others - but simply says that the community is in need of "ideological guidance," the report said.

"There is no suggestion that the authorities consulted the Larung Gar leadership about the measures," it said. The watchdog alleged that officials of the ruling Communist Party would make up the majority of the management staff at the monastery, a practice it said has become common in other Buddhist monasteries too.

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