-By International Campaign for Tibet
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ordered a series of demolitions of structures of religious significance and detentions of Tibetans resisting it in Draggo (Chinese: Luhuo) County in eastern Tibet. The demolitions came a year after the CCP established in late 2020 “Xi Jinping Thought on Rule of Law as the guiding thought for law-based governance in China”, thereby reflecting an even more repressive approach to Tibetan Buddhist religious practice that organizes itself outside CCP control.
The demolitions which began in late October 2021 resulted in the destruction of three enormous Buddha statues, a row of 45 prayer wheels and a monastic school in the county between October through December 2021. Many local Tibetans who resisted or showed discontent towards the authorities were detained. Amidst the information clampdown, names of at least 13 Tibetan detainees could be ascertained although the number is believed to be much higher.
Gaden Rabten Namgyal Ling monastic school was the first to be demolished beginning on October 31. Thereafter, the 99-foot enormous Buddha statue constructed in October 2015 was demolished beginning on December 12, 2021. A 45-foot Guru Padmasambhava statue at Chanang Monastery located 15 kilometers away from the 99-foot Buddha statue was demolished around the same time. A three-storey high (around 40-foot) Maitreya (future Buddha) statue housed inside Draggo Monastery was demolished beginning from December 21, 2021. All the demolitions took place within a 15-kilometer radius between October 31 to December 21, 2021.
Detentions of Tibetans
Although the number of detentions related to the demolitions is believed to be much higher, names of at least eleven Tibetans could be ascertained from information published by multiple exile media and NGOs. They are:
- Pelga (abbot of Draggo monastery, male)
- Nyima (administrative head of Draggo monastery, male)
- Nyima (monk affiliated to Draggo monastery, male)
- Tashi Dorjee (monk affiliated to Draggo monastery, male)
- Tsering Samdup (lay person, male)
- Lhamo Yangkyi (female)
- Trolpa (son of a Thangka painter, male)
- Lobsang Tsomo (nun, female)
- Asang (female)
- Dotra (male)
- Nortso (female)
To date, Nyima (administrative head) and Lobsang Tsomo (nun) are known to have been released from detention as reported by RFA and Tibet Times respectively. Lobsang Tsomo was released after serving three months in a “re-education center” in Dakyab county in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region. Nyima was released after around four months detention. The status of the remaining detainees is unknown. The authorities detained the Tibetans for a variety of reasons ranging from communicating to the outside world to pinning photos of the statues as their social media profile picture. For instance, Lobsang Tsomo and Tashi Dorjee were detained for communicating to their relative or contacts abroad. Asang, Dotra and Nortso were detained for pinning photos of the statues as their WeChat profile picture.
The county government gave the local Tibetans the options of tearing down the school themselves and salvage the construction materials or the workers send by the government demolish the school with nothing to salvage. The local Tibetans chose to tear it down themselves.
The ambitious new Draggo party secretary
The latest round of demolitions came after a new county party secretary, Wang Dongsheng, took charge of Draggo county. As the top CCP leader in the county, his order is preeminent for the demolitions.
On October 13, 2021, Wang Dongsheng’s appointment as the new party secretary was announced during the Draggo county leading cadres meeting. The 52-year-old Tibetan national who goes by his Chinese name had spent his entire 33-years-career, CCP member since 1989, in eastern Tibet. Prior to his rise as Draggo county party secretary, he had assumed various party roles in his native Nyagrong (Xinlong), Lithang (Litang) and Serthar (Seda).
As the deputy party secretary of Serthar county before his current position, he oversaw the destruction of Larung Gar Buddhist Academy between 2016-2017 resulting in demolition of around 7500 monastic dwelling huts and expulsion of around 5000 monastics. Wang Dongsheng exhibits all the attributes of a model Tibetan party leader fitting neatly into the central Chinese party leadership’s strategic move to utilize Tibetans to control Tibetans for better effect of policy implementation and for the party’s domestic legitimacy.
Three days after his appointment as Draggo County party secretary, Wang Dongsheng led his team on a county inspection on October 16, according to the county government website. The “supervision and research work” team consisted of Gou Fuhua who holds the concurrent post of county deputy governor and director of the county public security bureau, county deputy governor Tashi Rigpo (Zhaxi Rangbu), and heads of the county development and reform bureau, ethnic and religious bureau, agriculture and animal husbandry bureau, and housing and urban development bureau, and other bureaus.
The demolitions began soon after his inspection of the county ostensibly to carry out the central Chinese leadership’s emphasis on “law-based governance”. Click here to read more.