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Smuggled Video Shows Chinese Razing Tibetan Buddhist Centre

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 02/04/20; April 20, 2002.]

April 20 2002
The Guardian

New Delhi: A videotape smuggled across the Himalayas by two Tibetan monks has revealed how Chinese officials demolished one of Tibet's most important centres of Buddhist learning last year, reducing most of the building to rubble.

The footage, screened for the first time on Thursday, shows the systematic destruction of the Serthar Buddhist Institute in Tibet.

It makes a mockery of Beijing's frequent claim that Tibetans enjoy religious freedom, Tibetan human rights campaigners said.

The institute was home to almost 9000 students of Buddhism, many of whom were ethnically Chinese. But Chinese authorities became suspicious of it after its charismatic founder, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, met the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.

Last July, more than 1000 security officials turned up at the hillside institute in 50 trucks and jeeps. They ordered local workmen to demolish the students' living quarters. An elite army commando unit camped in a valley nearby to prevent resistance.

The video shows grim-faced Tibetan nuns trying to retrieve a few possessions from the remains of their homes. Others, dressed in maroon and orange robes, lie sobbing on the ground.

In the distance, Chinese soldiers can be seen goose-stepping across a parade ground.

"We wanted to make sure the world sees the atrocities which are going on inside Tibet," said Kembo Tenkyong, one of the two monks who smuggled out the video. The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy says it is deeply concerned about the fate of Jigme Phuntsok, the institute's abbot.

After the demolition, Chinese officials took him to a hospital. He is now believed to be under house arrest in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

Internal Chinese documents, it is claimed, show that the authorities decided to close the institute after concluding that many of its students were "anti-Chinese" and members of the "Dalai Lama clique". Officially, China has justified its action on the grounds that the centre was overcrowded and unhygienic.

In the past seven years nearly 19,000 monks and nuns have been evicted from religious institutions across Tibet. At least 24 institutions have been closed.

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