Distressing scenes of monks and nuns being forced to leave Larung Gar Buddhist Institute in the last few days have emerged on footage shared on social media. Many monks and nuns have been compelled to sign a document stating that they would not return to the globally renowned religious centre in Serthar (Chinese Seda) eastern Tibet (in present-day Sichuan province), where thousands of Tibetan and Chinese monastics have studied over the years.
These images, circulating on Chinese social media accounts, depict monks and nuns being expelled from Larung Gar over the last few days, and the responses of those who remain. (Click to view full images)
The video footage shows more monks and nuns leaving by bus as others gather, many weeping, others with their hands joined in prayer, at Larung Gar, where the authorities started to demolish their homes in July. In one video, a nun appears to collapse by the roadside, screaming in distress.
According to information from Tibetan sources, hundreds of monks and nuns from Golog (Chinese: Guoluo) and Jyegudo (Chinese: Yushu) in Qinghai, Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) in Sichuan, and the Tibet Autonomous Region were among those forced to leave Larung Gar in Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) on Sunday (October 30). Officials and police arrived from their home areas to escort them.
Many monks and nuns were compelled to put their thumbprints or sign a document which stated the following in Chinese: In accordance with the requirements of promoting regulation work in the Serthar County Larung Five Sciences Buddhist Academy, I left the Larung Five Sciences Buddhist Academy and will, after returning home, as always continue to love the country and love religion, and abide by the law. I solemnly promise not to return to the Serthar County Larung Five Sciences Buddhist Academy, except to carry out relevant formalities during large-scale Buddhist activities.”
Earlier footage from the institute in Kardze prefecture, Sichuan (part of the Tibetan area of Kham) depicted homes being razed by Chinese work teams with heavy equipment. Some of the new footage, most of which appears to have been shot during the expulsions on October 30 (2016), shows cranes close to the main gate of Larung Gar, with newly-built construction on the hillside. These buildings are large concrete structures, apparently different to the wooden huts that feature in much of the monastic community. The development is consistent with earlier reports, with eyewitnesses speculating that the new buildings may be part of a push to develop the area with new guest-houses or facilities for temporary visitors rather than long-staying monastics as part of a broader official plan to re-shape and develop the area.
According to Tibetans who spoke to a recent visitor to the area, the religious teachers at both Larung Gar and Yachen Gar “feel under intense pressure to comply with the official regulations – if they don’t convince the monks and nuns ordered to leave, there is an implicit threat to the ability to continue teachings there”. The same source said: “People are worried and disappointed that the nuns have to leave, particularly as many are in the middle of their education. Some have heard that they could come back once a week to take classes. But for those returning to the Tibet Autonomous Region, thousands of kilometers away, that would be impossible.”