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Tibetan monks coerced into taking blame for destroyed statues in Drago

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The severed head of the 99-ft Buddha statue being loaded in a vehicle (Photo/RFA)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, May 25: The Chinese authorities in the so-called Sichuan province are reportedly forcing Tibetan monks in Drago County to take the blame for the destruction of sacred statues last year, which were torn down by the local Chinese officials. Tibetans were coerced into signing affidavits, according to Radio Free Asia. “After reports of these demolitions in Drago county reached the international community, the Chinese government is now accusing Tibetan monks in Drago of destroying the Buddhist statues, and is coercing them into signing documents to take the blame,” a RFA source said, citing contacts in the concerned region.

Over a dozen Tibetans were detained by the Chinese authorities following the demolition of Buddha statues in December 2021 in the Kham region. The source also added that even though all the detainees have been released, most have suffered the brunt of state intimidation. “Most of the local Tibetans and monks who were arrested for sharing news of the Buddha statues’ destruction have now been released, but they are constantly being harassed and are closely watched by the Chinese authorities,” the anonymous source also revealed.

The detainees include the abbot of Drago monastery, Paga, his assistant Nyima, and another monk named Tenzin Nyima and Tashi Dorje from the monastery. Moreover, a local resident and sculptor Lhamo Yangkyab and another layman Norpa Tsering Samdup were also taken into custody for unknown charges.

The demolition of the 99-ft Buddha statue was followed by the destruction of another 30-ft tall Maitreya Buddha statue last year. According to reports, the monks from the monastery and the local residents were forced to witness the destruction. The Drago county chief Wang Dongsheng was also one of the main overseers of the demolition campaign at the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy.

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