Government pressure mounts on Atsok Monastery

Hydropower station threatens displacement of Atsok Monastery after government revokes its cultural relic protection status

Tibet Watch has received an update on plans for Atsok Monastery. The monks have been coerced again to relocate to make way for construction of a hydropower dam.

The Chinese authorities in Drakkar County held a meeting on 29 September 2023 at Atsok Monastery and ordered its monks to comply with the government’s decision to relocate them. The meeting took place at a time when the local government was reaching closer to its two-year deadline to begin construction of the Yangchu Hydropower Station on the Machu River (known internationally as the Yellow River), or risk losing the project’s approved status.

Tibet Watch reported on the disagreement of the plan by local Tibetans and monks in the area of Karmo Yeakyil (དཀར་མོ་གཡས་འཁྱིལ།) two years ago when a similar meeting was convened at the monastery. Then, a year later, the local government revoked the monastery’s cultural relic protection status, citing that after consultation with various experts, monks, nuns, laypeople and relevant departments, they found that the monastery’s halls were of modern architecture and therefore did not fulfil the criteria for cultural relic protection.

Official statement on the revocation of the cultural relic protection status of Atsok Monastery


The official plan is to relocate the 19th century Buddhist monastery to a mountain area called Khyokar Naglo, which is three to four kilometres from Palkha Township.

A source told Tibet Watch that the government had already started relocating around 60 households, mostly farmers from Dungkar Thang (དུང་དཀར་ཐང་།),  where construction of the hydroelectric station is underway. Those households are being moved to  different places of Chabcha City (ཆབ་ཆ་གྲོང་ཁྱེར།), Drakkar County (བྲག་དཀར་རྫོང་།) and  Palkha Township (དཔལ་ཁ་གྲོང་རྡལ།).

There are parallels with events in Dege County, where villages and Buddhist monasteries are being coerced to leave by local authorities to make way for a series of dams on the Drichu (Yangtse) River, approved by the National Development and Reform Commission of China. Appeals by local Tibetans to stop the dam project in Dege in February culminated into mass arrests and police crackdowns.

Information supplied by Tibet Watch

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