They would tell us 'the sky belongs to the Chinese Communist Party and so does the earth': Larung Gar resident speaks.

December 19, 2017

Tsering has studied in Larung Gar for several years.

DHARAMSHALA: The UN and Human Rights Desk of Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR) managed to secure a rare interview with Tsering*, a student of Larung Gar in his 20s.

Over two months have passed since the September 30 deadline set by the Chinese authorities to complete the demolition of Larung Gar, one of the world's largest Buddhist academy situated in Serthar County, Karze Prefecture. The Chinese government-directed demolition, which began in June last year has resulted in the dismantling of at least 4,725 homes and expulsion of more than 4,825 monks, nuns and lay students from the institute.

Reports indicate that of the residents who were evicted as a result of the demolitions, a substantial number of monks who were rendered homeless remained disturbed emotionally.

Speaking exclusively to DIIR's UN and Human Rights Desk, Tsering, a student residing in Larung Gar tells us that with no permanent place to stay, the monks are on their own to fend for shelter.

"Some of the monks were even forced to disrobe after their eviction while a few lucky ones managed to join other monasteries," said Tsering.

As for the nuns, considering their safety, the institute had arranged for them to stay in nunneries in the region.

However, concrete information on the status of the evicted monks and nuns and their well-being is still hard to come by as the Chinese authorities have imposed a stringent online monitoring system in the area and has intensified surveillance of the locals.

Recent information received by DIIR's UN, EU & Human Rights Desk, which has been monitoring the situation in Larung Gar since the demolitions began last year, revealed that the scale of physical destruction that has come to light constitute only an iota of the total devastation caused.

Research done by the desk has led to findings that a large-scale impact of the demolition has been much deeper, beyond the physical demolitions as the residents and students of the institute have been "deeply disturbed", both psychologically and physically.

"Those who were evicted have suffered from depression and some of the Tibetan nuns, and even some Chinese students, became depressed," said Tsering.

"I haven't seen monks losing their minds, but they were extremely disturbed nonetheless because there is no space to voice against the violations of their basic fundamental rights, contrary to what provided in the Chinese laws and constitution articles," Tsering further said.

The Chinese authorities' heavy-handedness and disregard of both the rights and the sentiments of the Larung Gar residents is not only inhuman but also unlawful. "[The authorities] would tell us that it is Xi Jinping's order and the order of higher authorities, and that's it. 'If orders are not obeyed then it's wont be easy'. They would gloat over and tell us 'the sky belongs to the Chinese Communist Party and so does the earth', which is quite true in terms of Tibet as Tibet is under the CCP and they can do whatever they want. The police, the banks, everything in Tibet is controlled by CCP," explained Tsering.

Tsering refuted the reasons given by the Chinese authorities over demolitions at Larung Gar, of over-population and inadequate housing and sewage management.

Instead, he said that it is the growing influence of the institute that the authorities feared.

"The Khenpos [Buddhist abbots] of Larung Gar have many Chinese students and followers in China and have a strong influence there. The Chinese government fears such growing influence. Larung Gar also undertakes HIV/AIDS awareness initiatives in Tibetan areas. There are some government projects on HIV/AIDS, but those have not been as effective as that of the Khenpos' efforts. Tibetans pay heed to the advice of Khenpos due to their spiritual profile, and the colloquial Tibetan language spekaers to the local residents more effectively than Chinese," said Tsering.

Today, Larung Gar remains under tight security with heavy presence of police forces present both in uniform and in civilian clothes. According to reliable sources, the Special Police Force (the PRC's SWAT units, called tè jing in Chinese) is the primary police unit exerting repression and intimidation in Larung Gar. Tsering mentioned that in Serthar, the county in which Larung Gar is situated, at least 500 members of the Special Police Force are posted, and a considerable number of Tè jings are also present in the nearby Tibetan county of Drakgo. As for resistance and protest by the local students against the demolition, Tsering pointed, "If we do protest, they can easily suppress us. So we are the ones to suffer insurmountable loses in the end."

*Name changed for security reasons.