By Tenzin Sangmo
Yachen Gar, Photo- Reurinkjan_rigpawiki.org
DHARAMSHALA, June 12: The Chinese authorities in Sichuan province recently forced out nearly 3,500 monks and nuns from the Yachen Gar Tibetan Buddhist Center in Kardze prefecture’s Palyul county, reports RFA.
Also known as Yachen Orgyen Samten Choling, the sprawling temple complex founded by Akhyuk Rinpoche in the summer of 1980 until recently housed an estimated 10,000 practitioners devoted to scriptural study and meditation.
The removal campaign in an isolated valley 4,000 m above sea level, that began in May mainly targeted residents who had come from areas outside Sichuan.
None of them was allowed to stay back apart from a few exceptionally accomplished Buddhist masters like lamas and khenpos [instructors].
The source further added that only those from Sichuan areas are being spared from removal, while those from Yulshul prefecture in Qinghai are being allowed to remain on condition that authorities in their home areas provide assurance that they will not take part in any political activities.
It was learnt from sources that around 600 Chinese officials are now permanently stationed at Yachen Gar, maintaining a tight watch over the centre.
'They closely monitor the monks’ movements and check on all outside visitors,” said the source, adding that senior monks and instructors at Yachen Gar are feeling despondent over the removals and are unwilling to talk about them.
The makeshift shelters where the outside residents were living in had reportedly been cleared away although the Chinese officials have so far not torn down any of the monks’ and nuns’ dwellings like they did in Serthar Larung Gar.
International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) in a March 2017 report said that restrictions on the huge temple complexes in Sichuan’s Serthar County are part of “an unfolding political strategy” aimed at controlling the influence and growth of these important centres for Tibetan Buddhist study and practice.
During 2017 and 2018, at least 4,820 Tibetan and Han Chinese monks and nuns were removed from Larung Gar, with over 7,000 dwellings and other structures torn down beginning in 2001.
According to the State Department’s Human Rights Report released on April 2018, the central government reportedly also ordered the destruction of Yachen Gar, a Tibetan Buddhist education centre where both Tibetan and Chinese are taught.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) termed China as one of the world’s worst persecutors of religious faiths in its 2019 annual report released Monday.
Tenzin Dorjee, chair of the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, reportedly told RFA
that China’s restriction on Yachen Gar is an “egregious violation of the freedom of religion.” He said the case will be followed closely and addressed at all important forums.