The largest school for Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns is under threat of complete destruction, as the Chinese government has ordered massive downscaling and demolition of half its residences.
Larung Gar Buddhist Academy is the largest institute of its kind in the world, something which has failed to escape the notice of the Chinese government. At present, the monastery has around 10,000 full-time residents, but the Chinese have demanded that this number be reduced to a maximum of 5,000.
Currently, the only reason that has been given for this intrusion into the monastery’s affairs is its need of “ideological guidance”. However, Human Rights Watch reports that it is also partially to do with the fire hazards that the now sprawling encampments surrounding the monastery poses. The Chinese present a firm front to the international community, but they undoubtedly realize that even an accidental fire at the institute would be disastrous for their image, as some groups would naturally assume that they were responsible to an extent.
Reports indicate that the demolition process has already begun, to a minor extent, which appears to be intended as a clear threat to the authorities at Larung Gar –give in to the Chinese demands, or face a full-scale demolition.
Tibet has faced strict laws and legislations from the Chinese authorities for decades now, but the events at Larung Gar appear to be the first signs of greater crackdowns on religious freedom in the region. As well as halving its population by October 2017, the monastery has also been asked to install surveillance equipment, and to delegate some of its management to Chinese officials.