Spread among the hills in Serta County in Kardze, eastern Tibet, Larung Gar Buddhist Institute is the largest and one of the most significant sites in Tibetan Buddhism. It was established in 1980 and has grown over the years to become home to anywhere between 10,000 and 40,000 residents. These residents include monks, nuns and visiting students, who come from Tibet, China and other countries to learn.
In June 2016, the government of Serta County issued an order stating that the number of residents at Larung Gar had to be reduced to 5,000 people by October 2017. The order came from the very top – the Chinese central government in Beijing.
The order also decreed that vacated residences were to be demolished, along with other buildings such as nuns’ hostels and old people’s homes.
It also effectively put Larung Gar’s internal affairs under the control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It handed majority control of Larung Gar’s management to the CCP and stipulated that Larung Gar’s financial management should be handed over to Chinese authorities.
Official sources stated that the order was issued for the residents’ safety, to ease overcrowding and to reduce the risk of fire. But the residents of Larung Gar were never consulted and their wishes to remain at the monastery and practice their faith in peace were ignored.