Authorities in China’s Sichuan province enforced Tibetan monks and other local residents to watch the destruction of a large and respected Buddha statue after official complaints that the statue had been built too high, RFA sources said. RFA verified the demolition of the statue by study of commercial satellite Imagery. Chinese authorities forced monks from Thoesam Gatsel monastery and Tibetans living in Chuwar and other nearby towns to witness the demolition, which started on Dec. 12 and continued for the next nine days.
“Local Tibetans from other villages were also forced to come to watch the demolition,” a Tibetan residing in India said, sharing this on condition of anonymity to protect family members still living in Drago. “A lot of police had also been deployed to make sure that spectators didn’t take pictures and videos or create disturbances.” According to a report released on Friday, the demolition was carried out by county Chief Wang Dongsheng, a high-ranking official who was implicated in the massive destruction of Larung Gar Buddhist Academy. Dharamshala based Tibet Watch has said that Chinese officials in Drago County in Tibet’s kham area dismantled a 99-foot Buddha statue and smashed 45 massive prayer wheels placed near Drago Monastery. It was reported that the destruction began on December 12 with “military soldiers strongly posted in the crossroads of its neighborhood to prevent any type of protest.”
Based on rights organizations, the statue was initially formed with complete agreement of the local authorities for Buddhist acceptance that it would avoid starvation, war, and possible disasters of fire, water, earth, and air with the financial support of local Tibetans in Drago County, Kham Tibet. However, at the time of dismantling, local Chinese authorities declared that the construction documents fraudulent and stated that the statue’s height was not permitted in the area. The local residents and monks who were forced to witness the demolition have said that they had all the legal documents for the construction of the giant Buddha statue and that the Chinese authorities demolished it six years after it was built. The Buddha statue was built in 2015. According to Radio Free Asia, 11 monks from Drago’s Gaden Namgyal Ling Monastery have now been arrested by the authorities on doubt of sending news and photos of the statue’s destruction to outside Tibet.
It is worth observing that the monks were barred from taking pictures or videos of the demolition and were threatened by the authorities to not inform the incident outside. For the locals, the destruction of the statue came off as a China’s campaign to remove Tibet’s distinct national culture and religion. Before the demolition of Buddha, the Chinese had detained the monks from the monastery in Drago saying that they needed to be taught lessons. The monks were violently beaten and provided with no food in prison. Some of them were even made to stand naked in freezing cold for raising their voice against the planned demolition. The local Tibetans are still under their watch, they are not being allowed to hang prayer flags outside their homes. The police are also targeting the locals on other unreasonable excuses. Around October last year, Tibetan volunteers led by monastery officials demolish the Gaden Rabten Namgyaling schools at Drago Monastery in Karze( Ganzi) in China’s western Sichuan province. The school administered by Drago Monastery was condemned by local Chinese authorities, and monastery officials were ordered to demolish the school building in three days or a government team would destroy the building and confiscate school property, including the building materials.
Norbu, who shared a videos and photos of the demolition received from sources in the region, said the order was in fact targeting a learning center where local Tibetan students received education in Tibetan culture and religion. Because of the tight restrictions on sharing information in the region the India-based Norbu said he was unable to find out what actually happened to the students, including whether they were compelled to leave the Drago area. With regards to this incident of demolitions in Dargo, a lot of notable personalities has expressed their views on various platforms. One such is author Brahma Chellaney, he took it to twitter saying that China is walking in the footsteps of Taliban. Taliban has destroyed numerous religious artefacts in Afghanistan during their first reign before the U.S invasion where their most notable targets were two massive Buddha statues built in the sixth century. Chellaney said China was on its way to wipe off the Tibetan culture and was following the footsteps of the Taliban. “
The wanton demolition was carried out to teach Tibetans a lesson. Xi-led China is working to annihilate Tibetan religion, culture and identity. Authorities have switched TibetanLanguage schools to Chinese and cut Tibetans off from ancient traditions, like herding and farming”, he said. The US state department has said that it has profound concerns for the Tibetans and has requested China authorities to respect the human rights of Tibetans. It says it stands for the safeguarding of Tibet’s environment as well as the exclusive cultural, linguistic, and religious identity of Tibetan traditions. Very recently, the US government has also declared a new special coordinator for Tibetan issues to encourage applicable dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama and force to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Tibetan people. Whatever happened at Dargo was complete act of barbaric from Chinese authorities.