By Tenzin Monlam
DHARAMSHALA, July 21: The Chinese authorities on Wednesday began demolition of Tibet’s largest Buddhist center, Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in Serthar County, Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province.
The sprawling Tibetan Buddhist study center in Serthar County has been subjected to forceful reduction of its strength over the decade. The latest drive is aimed at cutting the centre’s strength to 5,000 by 2017 along with demolition of the dwellings in the name of road construction, sources say.
Tsering Woeser, Beijing based Tibetan writer, shared pictures of the demolition that started yesterday at around 8 p.m. (local time) leaving trails of the wreckage and helpless onlookers. The authorities had blocked the pathway with signposts that read, ‘Demolition work in progress, no trespassing’.
“It is indeed sad and unfortunate news. It is also a fact that since Xi Jinping became the President of China there has been a noticeable deterioration in the religious freedom inside Tibet,” said Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok, Deputy Speaker of Tibetan Parliament in exile.
He also added that on the one hand China puts restrictions on monastic growth and on the other hand it proclaims religious freedom in Tibet.
Khenpo Tsultrim Lodroe and Khenpo Rigdar, prominent religious figures of the center had urged their students to ‘remain calm’, ‘continue with their studies’ and ‘avoid taking part in protests’.
According to sources, the demolition and the reduction of the monastic population would be followed by further reduction in the number of monks and nuns allowed to live at the center.
Last year, over 600 members of the center were ordered to leave, while around 400 members over the age of 60 were also asked to leave.
The gradual process of reducing the strength of an institute founded by late Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok that once boasted around 10,000 students, including Han Chinese, to half could be a preventive measure since Beijing consider the center a hub for those who disseminate information to ‘exile separatist forces.’
The year 2001 saw the dismantling of Serthar Institute. Over 8,000 students were evicted forcibly from the Institute and approximately 2,000 dwellings of monks and nuns were demolished that year.