DHARAMSHALA: The 15th Kashag led by Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay and Speaker Khenpo Sonam Tenphel of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, held a joint press conference today to urge UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for an immediate intervention to save Larung Gar, one of the world’s largest centres of Buddhist learning in Tibet and 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.
Sikyong and Speaker also released a 7-minute film entitled ‘We stand solidarity with Larung Gar’. The film highlights the large-scale demolitions at Larung Gar and the forced eviction of monks and nuns from the institute. With the film, CTA expresses its solidarity with the residents at Larung Gar and hopes to draw international attention to the dire situation in Larung Gar and, most importantly urges for an immediate UN intervention to save Larung Gar.
In the light of the massive demolitions at Larung Gar, one of the world’s largest Buddhist learning centres, the Sikyong and the Speaker, on behalf of Central Tibetan Administration called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for its immediate intervention into the case.
In July 2016, the demolition of Larung Gar by Chinese authorities began as a part of a multi-year plan aiming to downsize the academy by 50 percent and evict at least half of its more than 10,000 residents. A local government order to Larung Gar leaders instructed them to reduce the number of monks and nuns to a total of 5,000 by September 2017. According to latest reports, around 4600 residents have been evicted and around 1,500 dwellings destroyed. Saddened by the Chinese government’s destructive action, three nuns of the centre – Rigzin Dolma, Tsering Dolma and Semgha committed suicide and left notes referring to the demolitions and Government “harassment.”
Video footages received despite the communications crackdown have caused deep distress in Tibetans around the world. Nuns are seen wailing helplessly watching the send-off of their fellow nuns who were being shoved into buses and sent back to their hometown. The evictees are forced to undergo patriotic education exercise. Video shows Tibetan nuns dressed in military uniform, singing the song “Chinese and Tibetans are Children of One Mother.”Another video show Tibetan nuns believed to be evictees of Larung Gar performing on stage to pop songs. This is not only a violation of their monastic vows but the worse form of humiliation a nun can face.
Although this year marks the 40th anniversary since the end of the Cultural Revolution, China is still implementing similar repressive policies in Tibet.
“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 indicate that the other major monasteries in Tibet could face the same tragic fate. We fear that the Cultural Revolution is reviving in Tibet,” said Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay.
The New York Times article on Larung Gar rightly referred to the demolition as ‘China taking a chain saw in the center of Tibetan Buddhism.’
“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,” said Khenpo Sonam Tenphel, Speaker, Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile.
The two leaders also called on the Chinese leadership to cease the demolitions and accord religious freedom for Tibetans inside Tibet. “While we applaud the statement UN Secretary-General designate Antionio Guterres made in Beijing that “UN needs to make effective combination of human, civil and economic rights in a world where many rights are not respected,” we urge him to make Tibet his number one priority after he takes office in January next year,” they concluded.
The two key asks of the press conference were:
- To urge the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid to take immediate action in this case and push for a visit to Tibet to assess and address the pressing situation in Larung Gar.
- To request the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to raise the critical human rights situation in Tibet in the opening statement at the forthcoming 34thUN Human Rights Council Session in Geneva, in March next year.
CTA also appealed 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. Sign the petition here.
CTA will observe a solidarity prayer on 10 December 2016 at Tsuglagkhang, Dharamshala.