Authorities in western China’s Sichuan province have begun a new wave of expulsions from the Yachen Gar Tibetan Buddhist study center, this time targeting monks and nuns who came from outside areas to join the sprawling complex located in Kardze prefecture’s Palyul county, Tibetan sources say.
Founded in 1985, Yachen Gar had until recent years housed an estimated 10,000 monks, nuns, and lay practitioners devoted to scriptural study and meditation, but received few visitors due to its remote location.
But in August 2017, Chinese authorities began the demolition of 2,000 houses of monks and nuns, at the same time ordering the expulsion of the same number of center residents, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
“Now, about a month ago, the authorities began to remove monks and nuns who came to Yachen Gar from other areas,” a Tibetan source in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service, citing contacts in the region.
“Apart from a small travel allowance, no arrangements have been made for them to find places to live in their native regions or to continue their studies, and this is causing much hardship,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
An ongoing process
Beginning in 2018, large numbers of Chinese officials began to arrive in Yachen Gar to collect information on the center’s residents, recording their names and ages, their places of origin, and their monastic affiliation, the source said.
No total for the numbers of those now being expelled was immediately available, though a Tibetan source in the region described the removals as a “still ongoing process.”
“It is unbearable for them to leave their teachers and their spiritual brothers and sisters,” the source said, also speaking on condition his name not be used.
“The monks and nuns being expelled have been devout practitioners at Yachen Gar for many years, but their friends are powerless to help them and are crying tears of sadness, as they have no way to stand up to the orders of the Chinese government,” he said.
An unfolding strategy
Restrictions on Yachen Gar and the better-known Larung Gar complex in Sichuan’s Serthar county are part of “an unfolding political strategy” aimed at controlling the influence and growth of these important centers for Tibetan Buddhist study and practice, a Tibetan advocacy group said in a March 2017 report.
“[Both centers] have drawn thousands of Chinese practitioners to study Buddhist ethics and receive spiritual teaching since their establishment, and have bridged Tibetan and Chinese communities,” the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet said.
During 2017 and 2018, at least 4,820 Tibetan and Han Chinese monks and nuns were removed from Larung Gar, with over 7,000 dwellings and other structures torn down beginning in 2001, according to sources in the region.