Smuggled Film Shows Destruction of Sethar Institute
(Dharamsala | April 19, 2002)
The Tibetan Centre of Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) today
screened for the first time a 10-minute documentary showing the
massive destruction of Serthar Buddhist Institute in Sichuan Province
in Tibet. The documentary was made from film footage smuggled out
from Tibet by ex-residents of the Institute.
Serthar Institute, also known as Larung Gar, is located in Karze
"Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture", Sichuan Province. Until last year
it was Tibet's largest Buddhist Institute. Serthar's non-sectarian
academic teachings by Khenpo (abbot) Jigme Phuntsok attracted
Buddhist scholars from all around the world, including mainland
China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea. It was also home to a large
number of Tibetan monks, nuns and lay-people. Total population
before the current crackdown was well over 8,000.
In 1999 Chinese Communist Party "work team" visited the Institute and
ordered that only 1400 residents were permitted to study there. First
to be expelled were students from other Asian countries. Then in
June 2001 fifty trucks and jeeps arrived at the Institute and,
under the protection of thousands of security officials who camped
on the outskirts of the Institute during the demolition, began to
destroy the residential area.
The documentary shows Chinese authorities overseeing the demolition
of buildings, while monks and nuns try and retrieve their possessions
from the wreckage. It also contains interviews with two ex-residents
of Serthar Institute who are now in exile. Of particular concern
to former residents of the Institute is that Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok
and his niece, herself a senior religious instructor, are being
held incommunicado in Chengdu. Another major concern described by
a nun interviewed in the documentary is that hundreds of nuns in
particular are now homeless.
In the last seven years, TCHRD has recorded the eviction of almost
19,000 monks and nuns from religious institutions in Tibet; the
closure of 24 religious institutions; and the arrest of thousands of
monks and nuns who are often guilty of little more than expressing
their opinion or refusing to denounce their spiritual leader,
the Dalai Lama.
Youdon Aukatsang said "The documentary completely contradicts China's
claim to respect religious freedom in Tibet. China may have escaped
condemnation on their human rights record at the Human Rights
Commission this year, but with evidence such as this, the world
can no longer turn a blind eye."