Residences of monks and nuns at Larung Gar demolished to pave way for Chinese tourists

By Lobsang Tenchoe

DHARAMSALA, August 11: A year after China’s forced demolition at Larung Gar, the world’s largest Tibetan Buddhist institute, the residences of monks and nuns has now been replaced with new roads and staircases to attract tourists, says Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).

20733105_1621420091235728_923220737_nBased on photographs and videos acquired last month from its sources in Tibet, the rights group said the Chinese authorities have set up more than ten broad strips running vertically across the bowl of the valley. “The cleared strips, estimated on average to be 100 meter in length are now being used to build large staircases with railings that will be used by the growing number of tourists to reach the top of the hill,” Tsering Tsomo, Executive Director of TCHRD said.

Last year, citing concerns over overcrowding, fire hazards and lack of infrastructure, the Chinese government began illegal demolition of the residences of monks and nuns at Larung Gar and forcefully drove away the displaced Tibetan monks and nuns.

Contesting China’s claim, the Dharamsala-based rights group said, “Clearly the growing popularity and influence of Larung Gar as a spiritual oasis for Buddhist practitioners from all over the world was the overriding reason for the demolition. The goal was to cut down the population to more manageable number that will allow the Chinese government to more closely monitor the institute.”

Adding some weight to the rights groups claim, even many Chinese lay Buddhist are of the opinion that the Chinese government is only being a destructive force by trying to limit the influence of the institute.

20792917_1621419984569072_302224862_n“The government is using the excuse of building the roads and and improving the infrastructure to demolish houses. They just one to reduce the number of people here,” TCHRD quoted a female Chinese lay Buddhist as saying while another Chinese follower of a Tibetan Lama at Yachen Gar has said, “Yachen Gar also faced demolition but on a smaller scale compared to Larung Gar. The Government have built a very wide path all the way around the monastery at Yachen Gar. It is completely unnecessary to make it that wide but that gave them the pretext to destroy many homes.”

The rights group further highlighted China’s efforts in boosting tourism and remarked, “The pictures make it obvious that more has been demolished than is necessary for tourism purpose. Horizontal paths are being built to further divide the residential areas into segments and roads are being build so that the tourists can drive up to stay at the hotel and take photos without having to walk like they had to in the past.”

The serenity of the valley once sprouting the residences of monks and nuns has been largely reduced to trash and rubbles giving way to blazing engines of cranes, trucks, diggers and jack hammers to pave way for tourism. The Chengdu-based Sichuan Huashi Co. Ltd is tasked with all the construction works and has brought hundreds of Chinese workers from Chengdu and Chongqing.

20750555_1621420167902387_1067304545_n“Most of the people who now come to Larung Gar are tourists rather than people who want to practice Buddhism,” the rights group said, quoting an anonymous Tibetan monastic instructor at the institute.

But the institute is not open to all the tourists; foreigners and people from Xinjiang (erstwhile East Turkestan) are not allowed to visit. “Only ‘foreigners and people from Xinjiang’ are not allowed to visit. Even if few foreigners are able to visit, they are not allowed to stay overnight at Larung Gar and have to rent accommodations else where as no hotels in Serta County town accepts foreign guests fearing being fined,” TCHRD concluded.