Undated picture of Larung Gar prior to destruction. Photo: file

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larung-gar-tibet-hrw-report-2018Dharamshala — “This administrative takeover of Larung Gar by Party officials shows that the government’s aim was not merely to reduce numbers at the settlement. Chinese authorities are also imposing pervasive control and surveillance over every level of activity within religious communities,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, in a new report by Human Rights Watch.

International human rights watchdog, the Human Rights Watch, issued a new report last week that claims new Chinese policies aim at a ‘systematic takeover’ over Larung Gar, and Tibetan Buddhism in general.

According to an official document obtained by Human Rights Watch, some 200 Communist Party cadres and lay officials are taking over all management, finances, security, admissions, and even the choice of textbooks at the center, following demolitions and expulsions in 2017.

The report looks specifically at the destruction of Larung Gar that took place last year, calling it an “infringement upon freedom of religion,” and saying, “The government’s takeover of the administration, described in the official document as ‘standardization,’ could have far more significant impact than the demolitions and expulsions…

“The original order for the demolitions indicated that in the future three-fifths of the members of the main management committee at Larung Gar would be lay officials instead of monks. That plan was put into practice last August when local authorities announced the names of six top lay officials who had been given positions within Larung Gar’s two main management committees. All of them, including the deputy police chief of Kandze prefecture, are Communist Party cadres and are therefore required to be atheists,” the report stated.

“This administrative takeover of Larung Gar by Party officials shows that the government’s aim was not merely to reduce numbers at the settlement. Chinese authorities are also imposing pervasive control and surveillance over every level of activity within religious communities,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.

“The new government controls over Larung Gar fly in the face of Party claims that China respects constitutionally protected religious beliefs,” she added.

The report continued to highlight the concerning aspects of the Chinese authority’s administrative takeover, saying:

“The new document shows that scores of other cadres are to be installed not just in the management committee, but at every level and in each section of the monastic settlement. They will hold nearly half of the positions on most committees and in most offices, and in most cases will occupy the top positions.

“The prefectural deputy police chief will be party secretary and principal at the Larung Gar Institute, three of his seven deputy principals will be cadres, and the six ‘sub-area management units’ that supervise the monks at the institute will each be headed by a cadre rather than a monk.”

According to Human Rights Watch, the new document they acquired indicates that, "Forty percent of teaching at Larung Gar Buddhist Institute must now consist of classes in politics and other non-religious subjects. The primary criterion for accepting students will be whether they 'have a firm political stand, accepting the Great Motherland, the Chinese people, Chinese culture, the Chinese Communist Party and socialism with Chinese characteristics.' The objectives of study will include to 'honor and support the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system' and to train monks who 'defend the unification of the Motherland, uphold nationality unity and patriotic religion and abide by their vows.'"

Human Rights Watch says, "The scale of the Communist Party’s intervention at Larung Gar is unprecedented. Since October 2011, permanent teams of cadres have been stationed in all monasteries in the Tibet Autonomous Region, the central Tibetan area far to the west of Larung Gar, where they have taken over the management committee of each monastery. There have been reports of similar takeovers of some monasteries in eastern Tibetan areas. But none are known to have consisted of such large teams of cadres, or to have included cadres even at the lowest levels of monastery management.

"The changes at Larung Gar are in line with current religion policy, which emphasizes ensuring political stability in monasteries by intensifying official management. It also rewards political compliance by monks and nuns with public praise, titles such as 'model patriotic monk,' and other material or social benefits. The document aims to make the study of Buddhism 'standardized, law-abiding and modern,' a reference to a new, centralized system for managing religious training, textbooks, and curricular content maintained mainly through a network of higher studies institutes being constructed throughout China to retrain Buddhist monks.

"The scheme appears designed to micromanage religious institutions rather than close them down and to produce a new generation of Buddhist teachers trained equally in religious doctrine and state ideology in order to 'adapt Tibetan Buddhism to socialist society.'"

Additionally according to the report, only residents of Sichuan province will be allowed to apply, mostly eliminating monks and nuns from all other Tibetan areas.

The document also apparently highlights increased security and surveillance over the monks and nuns, limiting further the number allowed to stay there, controlling their movement, and subjecting them to “real-name registration,” which will require all monks to have red labels, nuns have yellow labels and lay people to have green ones.

According to HRW, this new document they acquired is an undated, four-page brochure printed in color in Chinese and Tibetan and apparently intended for public distribution. It ends with a quotation from Liu Chengming, Party secretary of Kandze prefecture, a supposedly autonomous area of Sichuan province that includes Larung Gar. The document appears to have been issued either by his office or by officials running Larung Gar.

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