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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Editorial: More punishment for Tibetan Buddhists

December 5, 2016

By the Editorial Board

New York Times, December 5, 2016 – China’s determination to suppress the religious life and culture of Tibetans has taken a brutal turn at Larung Gar, the world’s largest Buddhist institute, where demolition workers have been tearing apart the community’s hand-built monastic dwellings. The campaign is another blot on China’s human rights record.

For years, government officials have harshly pressed for the assimilation of Tibetan culture. That very likely only encouraged growth at Larung Gar, where an estimated 20,000 monks, nuns and believers live in a mountainside warren of red-painted dwellings. The authorities insist they are not destroying the community, in southwest China, nor forcing residents to flee — but only protecting “the personal safety and property of the monks and nuns.” If the government were interested in health and safety, it could help construct new sewers and homes to relieve the crowding. But, of course, it’s done nothing of the sort.

Amid the destruction and the noise of the chain saws, homeless nuns picked through the rubble for their possessions, Edward Wong of The Times reported. The residents say the government’s goal is to diminish the importance of Larung Gar by cutting it to perhaps 5,000 residents.

Hundreds have already been forced out, and there have been reports of protest suicides at the encampment. Citing the freedom of religion guaranteed in China’s constitution, Human Rights Watch, the independent monitoring agency, warned that the demolitions at Larung Gar and other Buddhist enclaves across the Tibetan Autonomous Region “represent a significant imposition of state power on religious institutions.”

A wiser government would keep in mind that earlier suppression galvanized an uprising across the Tibetan plateau in 2008 as residents defended their culture and religion.

Beijing’s hard-line agenda was evident earlier this year when the police detained Tashi Wangchuk, an outspoken advocate of bilingual education for Tibetans. He was accused of inciting separatism — a crime against the state that could bring 15 years in prison. Mr. Tashi argued only for what the Chinese government supposedly already guarantees — autonomy for Tibetans, not outright independence. The effort to destroy Larung Gar is further evidence of the government’s insecurity and its fear of any movement, religious or social, that it can’t fully control.

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