Satellite images of Sichuan’s Larung Gar Buddhist Academy show widespread destruction of the one of the world’s largest and most important centers for the study of Tibetan Buddhism more than a year after Chinese authorities began a program of forced evictions and demolitions, according to a report issued Thursday.
The report by two Tibetan rights groups — Free Tibet and Tibet Watch — shows that at least 4,725 homes have been leveled and about 4,800 residents forced to leave since July 2016 when authorities issued an order to destroy homes and to reduce Larung Gar’s population to 5,000 by Sept. 30, 2017.
Chinese authorities did not consult those living at the complex about the plan, which they said was to protect the safety of residents by reducing overcrowding and the risk of fire.
International law recognizes forced evictions in which residents are temporarily or permanently removed from their homes against their will as a human rights violation.
The report was issued on the one-year anniversary of the launch of the International Day of Action for Larung Gar, which saw protests in at least 20 cities around the world to raise awareness about the destruction of the complex. Demonstrations were held in Washington, D.C., Toronto, Buenos Aires, London, Paris, Tokyo, and Dharamsala, India.
The academy, located in Serthar county (in Chinese, Seda) in Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, was once home to between 10,000 and 40,000 monks, nuns, and visiting students, the report said.
Before-and-after images from U.S. satellites in 2016 and 2017 show how houses have been destroyed to make way for wider roads, new pathways, and additional space around religious buildings.
The destruction corroborates claims and evidence presented by residents that authorities have undertaken the program to facilitate tourist access to the complex, the rights organizations said.
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By Roseanne Gerin
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