"We are concerned that Chinese authorities initiated the demolition of residences at Larung Gar Tibetan Buddhist Institute without the consent of the institute's leaders," State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters at her daily news conference yesterday.
"We urge authorities to cease actions that may escalate tensions and to pursue forthright consultations with the institute's leaders to address any safety concerns in a way that does not infringe on the right of Tibetans to practice their religion freely," she said in response to a question.
Larung Gar is said to be one of the biggest Tibetan Buddhist institutions in the world. Chinese officials began demolishing many of the monastic homes last month.
Dr Lobsang Sangay, Sikyong or the democratically elected political leader of Tibet also condemned China for the demolition of Serta Larung Gar, the Buddhist institute in Eastern Tibet, saying its an "unfortunate" act by China, which is against the basic religious freedom.
Speaking to ANI here, Sangay said, "It is clearly a double standard by the Chinese Government, which says something and does something else. On the one hand, China says there is a religious freedom and showcase some kind of teachings by some Lama, while on the other hand, it destroys buildings where monks and nuns reside in Larung Gar complex."
"Serta Larung Gar is one of the largest Buddhist complexes and to see the destruction of those buildings, where these monks and nuns and lay people, including Chinese displace reside, is very unfortunate and against the basic religious freedom that the Chinese government claims to protect and provide," he added.
Monks and nuns have watched helplessly as Chinese demolition teams have rolled into Serta, Karze County and begun tearing down their homes at the Larung Gar institution, one of the world's largest monastic institutions with a population of over ten thousand Buddhist practitioners.
The demolitions come after an initial government order was issued in June demanding that "by September 30, 2017 the population of the encampment must be limited to 5,000 persons". The local authorities have marked up a map which indicates areas where homes are permitted and areas where they will be demolished. Around 1,400 houses are set to be demolished in the first wave and they are primarily nuns' homes and hostels belonging to elderly people.
No explanation for the demolitions was given in the order other than saying it is part of 'correction and rectification obligations'. It further states: "Residences of those expelled since 2013, illegal new residences, residences that have become old age homes and nuns' hostels, a total of 1,500, will be demolished at one go".
A similar crackdown at Serta Larung Gar was reported in 2001 and thousands of homes were dismantled by over 500 armed police and military personnel. Witnesses at the time said that huts were demolished with possessions and shrines still inside and demolition teams were seen to drag elderly and disabled residents out of their homes before destroying their homes, in some cases demolitions began while the owners were still inside. This crackdown is believed to have led to the expulsion of 8,000 practitioners and the demolition of 1,874 monastic residences and 2,000 meditation huts.