A Tibetan Buddhist nun has committed suicide because of a project by Chinese authorities to demolish a large religious institute where she studied in a Tibetan-populated county in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, RFA’s Tibetan Service has learned.
Rinzin Dolma hanged herself on July 20 because she could not bear to see the government-ordered demolition of the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county in Ganzi (Kardze) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a Tibetan source from the region told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.
She lived on Pema Khado Road inside the Larung Gar complex, he said.
“Rinzin Dolma was from the Dege region, and she was studying at the complex as a regular student,” the source said. “She left a note behind in which she wrote about how she could not bear the pain of the endless Chinese harassment of innocent Buddhists who quietly studied at the institute.”
“She also left some money that she requested in the note to be handed over the institute,” he said.
Strict controls on communication in the region prevented news of the suicide from reaching the outside world at the time.
Plans for destruction
High-level authorities outside the county issued an order to destroy the study center along with individual houses in the complex and reduce the number of Larung Gar’s residents by about half to a maximum 5,000 people, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
The Chinese plan to destroy around 2,000 dwellings in the complex this year, and more are expected to be demolished next year, one source told RFA in July when the project began.
RFA reported on Aug. 8 that authorities had begun clamping down on telephone calls and messages sent by social media from the area and preventing local residents from entering the demolition site in an effort to limit scrutiny of their destruction of the study center.
Authorities have paid 20,000 yuan (U.S. $3,000) to those whose houses have been destroyed as part of the project, the Tibetan source said.
The institute also provided some compensation to those who lost homes, he said.
“The daily routine of study and practice by the monks and nuns has been adversely affected because many of them have had to leave [their homes] without having alternative accommodations,” he said.
“Many [at the complex] are sharing rooms and helping each through this tough situation,” he said.
Thousands of Tibetans and Han Chinese study at the sprawling Larung Gar complex, which was founded in 1980 by the late religious teacher Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok and is one of the world’s largest and most important centers for the study of Tibetan Buddhism.
Monastic leaders at Larung Gar have urged the institute’s monks and nuns not to resist the destruction of their homes, and the work is believed to have gone ahead so far without interference.
Armed security forces have been stationed at the work site and in nearby counties to discourage attempts at protest.
Rights groups have slammed the government-ordered destruction at Larung Gar, with New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) saying that Beijing should allow the Tibetan people to decide for themselves how best to practice their religion.