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China steps up demolition, evictions at Larung Gar Buddhist Center

September 26, 2016

Radio Free Asia, September 19, 2016 - China is ratcheting up efforts to slash the size of the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy as authorities have ordered monks and nuns from Qinghai, Gansu, and Yunnan to leave the Buddhist center, RFA's Tibetan Service has learned.

Chinese authorities are already razing the housing for many of the monks and nuns studying at the center located in Sichuan province.

While the original targets for expulsion from the center appeared to be the monks and nuns from Lhasa (in Chinese, Lasa), Ngari (Ali), Nagchu (Naqu), and Chamdo (Chengdu) prefectures, sources in Tibet tell RFA the Chinese are now attempting to expel monks and nuns from Qinghai, Gansu, and Yunnan.

Qinghai, Gansu, and Yunnan are western Chinese provinces that are home to Tibetan populations outside of the Tibet Autonomous Region, the formal name China applies to Tibet.

“In the midst of ongoing demolition of the Larung Gar Buddhist center, the Chinese authorities are now implementing another plan to force all the monks and nuns from Qinghai, Gansu, and Yunnan to leave Larung Gar,” said a Tibetan who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“In the case of Qinghai, except for some monks and nuns who hold permission, all the rest all are being asked to leave the center,” the Tibetan added."In the case of those monks and nuns from Gansu and Yunnan, all are ordered to leave the Buddhist center without any exceptions.”

Another Tibetan source told RFA that Chinese authorities are contacting the families of the monks and nuns studying at the center and urging them to convince their relatives to return home, or face more draconian consequences.

“If these official instructions are not complied with, the government will withdraw special monetary assistance and other assistance to the families,” the source said. “If necessary the Chinese officials will go to Larung Gar Institute and convene a meeting of all monks and nuns from Gansu and Yunnan and make arrangements to force them leave the center.”

Chinese authorities have already evicted many of the monks and nuns who hail from Lhasa, a Tibetan from the monastery told RFA.

“Except for 100 monks who have official permission to study in Larung Gar, all the monks and nuns from the Lhasa area have already been expelled from the center,” that source said.

In addition to the monks and nuns from other provinces, the source told RFA that 1,000 monks and nuns who work directly for the Buddhist center area also being instructed to leave.

The local authorities had to file reports to the central government on the demolition completed and the monks and nuns removed from the center, according to the source. The members of Buddhist community in Larung Gar were also instructed not to start any new construction at the center.

Many thousands of Tibetans and Han Chinese study at Larung Gar, which was founded in 1980 by the late religious teacher Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok. It is one of the world’s largest and most important centers for the study of Tibetan Buddhism.

The order to reduce the number of Larung Gar’s residents by about half to a maximum level of 5,000 “comes from higher authorities,” sources told RFA.

China’s president Xi Jinping has taken 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 several suicides have been reported.

Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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