China: Buddhist Monastery Faces Demolition, Says HRW

By Eurasia Review

China’s authorities should suspend plans to demolish residences at a historic Buddhist monastery in Sichuan province and negotiate with the community’s leadership, Human Rights Watch said. The government plans to eliminate quarters for all but 5,000 monks, nuns, and laypeople at the Academy of Larung Gar, one of the world’s largest monastic institutions, by September 2017, cutting numbers there by at least half.

Central government and provincial authorities should negotiate any needed structural or other improvements with local religious leaders and drop demands that Larung Gar be run by government officials.

“China’s authorities should not be determining the size of monasteries or any other religious institution, but should accept that religious freedom means letting people decide for themselves their religious practices,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “If authorities somehow believe that the Larung Gar facilities are overcrowded, the answer is simple: allow Tibetans and other Buddhists to build more monasteries.”

A recent order from the Serta county government in Sichuan provides no reason for the demolitions and dramatic reduction in Larung Gar’s population – which consists of at least 10,000 monks, nuns, and laypeople – but simply says that the community is in need of “ideological guidance.” There is no suggestion that the authorities consulted the Larung Gar leadership about the measures.

The order also requires the monastery to accept joint management with government or Chinese Communist Party officials, who would hold a three to two majority. Similar requirements have been imposed in monasteries across the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), and represent a significant imposition of state power on religious institutions.

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