Tibet Watch has learned of the demolition of a third large Buddhist statue in Drago County. In November 2021, Chinese authorities of Drago County demolished a statue of eighth-century Indian Tantric master Guru Padmasambhava which stood outside Chanang Monastery (Tib: ཆ་ནང་དགོན་།, Ch:恰龙 寺) in Shara Thang (Tib: ཤ་ར་ཐང་།), Nyimo Township (Tib: ཉི་མོ་།). The forced demolition of the 45-foot tall bronze statue gilded with gold and silver took place in the same month as a series of demolitions of religious and cultural sites 15 kilometres away in Sengdeng Village.
Information about the demolition emerged four months after it happened, delayed by a communication clampdown in the region. Paramilitary troops and informers were deployed across Drago County during the demolition of a 99-foot Buddha statue in Sengdeng Village to prevent local Tibetans from protesting and sharing information with the outside world. Police have remained deployed in the county and have continued to randomly check the mobile phones of Tibetans, leading to the arrest of two groups of Tibetans: three pilgrims whose WeChat account had background photos of Buddha statues, and another group of Tibetans from Likhogma Township.
A source in exile confided to Tibet Watch that Chanang Monastery had valid documents for the statue and that the statue was not demolished immediately in October 2021 when the order was announced. In the next month, however, the same source said that “the Chinese authorities forced monks to carry out the destruction of the statue of Guru Rinpoche.” Tibet Watch is unable to ascertain the reason provided by Chinese authorities for its demolition.
According to the catalogue of the monastery in Drago County, Chanang Monastery was constructed in 1703 by the Nyingma lama Choktrul Taklha Pema Wangchuk Rinpoche. The monastery belongs to the Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism and is deeply revered and rich with relics and holy items. Prior to the Chinese occupation of Tibet, around 500 monks lived and studied there but there are only around 50 monks these days.
Information supplied by Tibet Watch