China to Demolish World’s Largest Tibetan Buddhist Institute

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China is taking steps to at least partially demolish Larung Gar, described as “the biggest Tibetan Buddhist institute in the world” by the BBC.

“The academy and monastery, founded in 1980, sprawls over a mountainside in Sertar county in eastern Tibet, and attracts thousands of Buddhist monks and nuns who wish to study there,” the BBC writes. “The students commonly stay in log cabins and correspondents say the site has grown considerably in recent years.”

But now it is shrinking, as the Chinese first ordered half of the residents to leave, and then began smashing some of those log cabins with heavy construction equipment, according to London-based Free Tibet activists.

According to Free Tibet, the demolition teams have been “accompanied by Chinese police and members of the armed forces dressed in plain clothes.”

Although higher-ranking Chinese officials declined to comment, a local county official has insisted the project is intended to “renovate” Larung Gar. Clearly not buying this story, one of the students at the Buddhist institute suggested the Chinese ought to try solving the overpopulation crisis in a few of their cities by knocking some of their houses down.

Radio Free Asia confirms the demolition in Larung Gar is being carried out under orders from China’s central government by work crews that are “all Han Chinese,” according to one source.

The institute’s Buddhist monks and nuns have been ordered not to resist or interfere with the work, but the RFA source added, “with an uncertain future hanging over our heads, we are filled with sadness and sorrow.”

The source added that the monks and nuns are “consumed with worry, but there is nothing we can do.” It’s not yet clear how extensive the demolition will be, although China’s orders are to supposedly reduce the population of Larung Gar by about half, to 5,000 people.

“Whether it is demolitions of monasteries or arresting Tibetans for possessing pictures of the Dalai Lama, religion in Tibet is subject to relentless interference by the Chinese government,” Free Tibet said in a statement.