New photos highlight renewed assault on Larung Gar in Tibet

Monday, 15 May 2017

Shocking new photos and personal testimonials from deep within eastern Tibet highlight renewed demolitions and forced removals by the Chinese authorities at a significant religious site.

The images, taken at Larung Buddhist Institute (1) in Serthar County, eastern Tibet (2), show bulldozers clearing entire roadways through fragile homesteads as part of a Chinese plan to drastically and forcibly reduce the number of residents at the site (3)(4).

The photos were smuggled out earlier this month by a Singaporean lawyer who disguised himself as a tourist to gain access to Larung Gar, despite a strict security presence in the surrounding area.

Tay reported that hundreds of Chinese tourists were able to walk around the site freely, despite the presence of Chinese demolition workmen, in stark contrast with residents who appeared fearful of outside contact.

Tay’s reports of new demolitions come after global condemnation in November 2016 when UN experts expressed “deep concern” over the demolitions and the European Parliament in December demanded China stop forced removals and respect Tibetans’ religious freedoms (5)(6). China halted the demolitions at the time but last month authorities re-stated 3,225 homes would be torn down by the end of April.

Tay stated that massive hotels are currently being built in the surrounding area of Serthar County; this has been further verified by Le Monde journalist Brice Pedroletti who was recently in the area (7).

Free Tibet has also received testimonies from residents inside Larung Gar, who have expressed fears for their future at the site which is of great religious and cultural significance to Tibetans. Despite initial claims from authorities that the removals and demolitions are being carried out to protect the safety of residents, locals believe the work is designed to make Larung Gar more accessible to tourists. One resident (8), whose home has already been demolished, said:

“I don't know how long I will be able to deal [with this]. You need to take action quickly, otherwise [Larung Gar] will become a tourist attraction”.

According to eyewitness accounts from inside Larung Gar, a Chinese work team of 700 people is inside Larung Gar and tasked with carrying out further removals and demolitions.

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For further information / comment, contact Free Tibet campaigns & communications manager John Jones:

 

E: john@freetibet.org

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Notes for editors

1. Larung Gar Buddhist Institute was founded in 1980. Larung Gar has already been subjected to forced removals and parts of its premises being torn down. In 2000 the quarters of over two thousand monks and nuns were demolished and in 2013 monks and nuns from central Tibet were removed from Larung Gar and sent back to their homes. Some of those removed were given prison sentences ranging from one to six years.

Another 1,000 people were ordered to leave the monastery in 2015, including elderly monks and nuns. For more information on Larung Gar, see: https://www.freetibet.org/larung-gar-buddhist-institute.

2. Location: Serthar County (Ch: Seda), Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province.

3. The text of China’s plan to reduce the number of residents at Larung Gar can be found here: https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/06/09/serta-county-order-larung-gar-monastery

4. Full text of the communication from the six United Nations experts: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=22816

5. Prior to the order being issued in June 2016, Larung Gar had a population of anywhere between 10,000 and 40,000 residents, including monks, nuns, lay people and visiting students.

6. Full text of the resolution by the European Parliament: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+MOTION+P8-RC-2016-1346+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN

7. French language article: http://www.lemonde.fr/m-actu/article/2017/03/24/a-larung-gar-la-repression-silencieuse-de-pekin_5100321_4497186.html

8. To guarantee the safety of the residents, we kept the identity of all sources in this press release confidential.