China Tears Down the Tibetan City In the Sky

Government-hired workers tasked to demolish Larung Gar’s cabins seen at rest. Larung Gar’s monks and nuns amble by, resigned against the larger forces affecting them. (Image Credit: David Chan)

China is demolishing homes and evicting thousands from Larung Gar, the world’s largest Tibetan Buddhist institution.

At the eastern end of the vast Tibetan Plateau lies a sprawling monastery named Larung Gar, which is the largest Tibetan Buddhist institute in the world and a monumental landmark to Tibetan culture, religion, and history.

It is home to anywhere between 10,000 and 40,000 residents, including monks, nuns, and visiting students. Because Larung Gar sits at an elevation of over 13,000 feet (3,962m), it has become known as a “city in the sky.”

But in June 2016, the Chinese government in Beijing issued an order that stated the site had become overcrowded and its population had to be reduced to a maximum of 5,000 by October 2017.

Within weeks, work teams descended on the peaceful community and began tearing down people’s homes, reducing cabins to nothing more than splintered wood and shattered glass. The owners were forced to sign documents agreeing not to return to the area again and to “uphold the unity of the nation.”

They were then forced to board buses and were taken away.

Last year around 3,730 residents were made to leave and 172 monks’ residences and 1,328 nuns’ residences were destroyed — a total of 1,500 residences demolished. Further demolitions began earlier this year.

“The entire process — from eviction through to demolition and finally to forced removal by bus — is opaque,” said a spokesperson for advocacy organization Free Tibet.

“The authorities within the area have shared no information on the plight of those who are removed, with people saying families are forced to house any relatives who have been bused out of Larung Gar.”

As pictures began to emerge of the destruction, human rights groups and international organizations called it a crackdown on religious freedoms and an attempt by the Chinese government to destroy an icon of Tibetan culture.

But with travel to the area severely restricted for international travelers, the media, and aid organizations, it was almost impossible to see first-hand what was taking place.

However, one young Canadian-Chinese man was able to reach Larung Gar due to his Chinese background and ability to speak fluent Mandarin.

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SOURCE: The Diplomat
Steve Shaw

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