CTA calls on UNHCHR to take urgent action to save Larung Gar, announces solidarity prayer

By Lobsang Tenchoe

DHARAMSALA, Dec 5: The political head of the Tibetan people and the Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile held a joint press conference today to express solidarity with the Tibetans suffering from the ongoing forced demolition of their residences at Larung Gar in Tibet.

Sikyong Lobsang Sangay and Speaker Khenpo Sonam Tenphel convened the urgent press conference in light of the forced demolition of Larung Gar and expulsion of Buddhist monks and nuns from the academy. They called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for an immediate intervention to save Larung Gar and urged to raise critical human rights situation in Tibet in its opening statement at the forthcoming 34th UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva in March next year.

The CTA released a 7-minute film titled, ‘We stand in solidarity with Larung Gar’ to highlight the ongoing large-scale demolitions at Larung Gar and forced expulsion of monks and nuns from the institute.

Sikyong Lobsang Sangar (left) and Speaker Khenpo Sonam Tenphel (right) addressing the press conference.
Sikyong Lobsang Sangar (left) and Speaker Khenpo Sonam Tenphel (right) addressing the press conference.

According to CTA’s press release, since the forced demolition of Larung Gar by Chinese authorities began in July 2016, around 4600 residents have been evicted and around 1,500 dwellings were destroyed based on the latest reports. Grieved by the demolition, three nuns from the centre, Rigzin Dolma, Tsering Dolma and Semgha committed suicide and left notes referring to the demolitions and government ‘harassment.’

“Larung Gar as a highly respected and iconic center of Tibetan Buddhism and significant heritage centre is of great importance in terms of Tibetan language, culture and religion and must be treasured and protected. China’s disregard for fundamental freedoms is currently demonstrated in the destruction of large swathe of Larung Gar where the very religious and learning center is reduced to rubbles,” Speaker Khenpo Sonam Tenphel said.

Referring to The New York Times article on Larung Gar, he said it rightly referred to the demolition as ‘China taking a chain saw in the center of Tibetan Buddhism.’

“What we see happening in the case of Larung Gar and Yachen Gar is reminiscent of the bitter experiences of Cultural Revolution. The three great monasteries of Tibet-Sera, Drepung and Gaden were destroyed and downsized from several thousand monks to few hundreds now. The current destruction of Larung Gar indicates that the other major monasteries in Tibet could face the same tragic fate. We fear that the Cultural Revolution is reviving in Tibet,” Sikyong Lobsang Sangay said.

The two leaders urged the Chinese government to end the demolitions and allow religious freedom and human rights for Tibetans inside Tibet as China claims Tibetans inside Tibet are entitled to and enjoy.

Sikyong Sangay further called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid to visit Tibet as promised upon his appointment and to assess and address the persistent situation in Larung Gar.

Two disturbing video footages of allegedly Tibetan nuns expelled from Larung Gar and Yachen Gar have surfaced out of Tibet. When enquired about the same, Sikyong Sangay said, “dressing nuns in camouflage uniforms and forcing them to sing in praise of the communist party and the motherland, and forcing nuns to dance in monastic robes to Chinese pop songs bore a striking resemblance to the situation during the Cultural Revolution. Its was a very unnerving and disturbing sight. Its against the basic human rights. Its humiliating and insulting to nuns who have taken monastic vows.”

The Tibetan leaders made an announcement to hold a solidarity prayer on Dec 10 at Tsug-lag-khang, the main temple in Mcleod Ganj, Dharamshala.

The CTA appealed to the Tibetans and supporters to sign the petition ‘Stand with Larung Gar Now’ initiated by ‘Safeguarding Buddhism’ that now has over 1,47,000 supporters. The petition will be delivered to UN Human Rights Council on World Human Rights day.