A second Buddhist statue revered by Tibetans has been demolished by authorities in China’s Qinghai Province, part of a campaign that locals and human rights groups say is a systematic targeting of Tibetan religion, customs and traditions.
Radio Free Asia (RFA) has confirmed the destruction of the three-story statue that took place on Jan. 11 via commercial satellite imagery. The demolished statue was that of Maitreya Buddha located at the Gaden Namyal Ling monastery in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Drago (known as Luhuo in Chinese.)
The removal of the massive statue follows the destruction of a 99-foot-tall Buddha statue that occurred only 900 meters (2700 ft) away on Dec. 12. According to Tibetan sources, the statue was demolished after officials supposedly received complaints that the monument was built too high and had violated local guidelines.
‘Teach Tibetans a Lesson’: Monks Forced to Watch as Chinese Regime Destroys 99-Foot-Tall Buddha Statue
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has persecuted Tibetans and Tibetan Buddhism for decades since conquering the region in the 1950s. The Party sees their religion and ethnic identity as threats to its atheist totalitarianism.
“Chinese authorities have again given unbelievable reasons for the destruction, saying there was no fire escape in the temple housing the three-story high statue of Maitreya Buddha, but these aren’t valid excuses,” a Tibetan living in exile with contacts in the area told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity in fear of retaliation from the Chinese regime.
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“The Chinese government is just continuing to sinicize Tibet’s religion by not allowing Tibetans the freedom to practice their own religion and faith,” the source added.
According to local sources, 45 traditional prayer wheels set up for use by Tibetan pilgrims and other worshipers were also destroyed along with the statue as local monks and residents were forced to watch the destruction of the revered monuments.
Arrested and beaten for transporting a Buddha statue
Police in neighboring Sichuan Province, which is also home to many Tibetans, also seized a life-sized statue of monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche last year while it was being transported back to Tibet. Delek Rinpoche was a revered Tibetan religious leader who died in prison in 2015 under “suspicious circumstances,” per RFA.
Those involved in the statue’s manufacturing and transport – four Tibetans and one Chinese national – were also arrested in July 2021 in connection to the seized statue. The five individuals were detained for over 15 days and were reportedly interrogated, beaten and released after being warned not to contact families or people close to the late monk.
Delek Rinpoche was a beloved figure in the Tibetan community and was serving a 22-year sentence for charges of “attempted bombing of a public square in Sichuan’s provincial capital Chengdu in April 2002.”
Local Tibetans and activists believe these accusations were false and an excuse for the CCP regime to persecute the late monk, who was a vocal critic of Beijing’s repression in Tibet. Delek Rinpoche’s body was hastily cremated after his death in prison despite his family’s request to have his body returned to Tibet.
Targeting minorities for ‘ethnic cleansing’
In December 2021, a report released by the The Tibet Action Institute described how children in Tibet as young as four had been forced to attend a vast boarding school system created by the CCP regime. Students in these schools would receive a “politicized” education, mainly in Mandarin Chinese, and are unable to practice Tibetan traditions, the group’s report said.
Tenzin, a Tibetan now living in the U.S. who attended one of these boarding schools in China said “now kids as young as five years old are being taken from their hometowns and environments and put in this school system. When you are cut off from your language and culture and history, you lose a sense of who you are, and eventually it feels like you’re losing the very fabric of your humanity,” he said. “You don’t feel complete.”
The Communist Party has a long track record of targeting religious faiths and minorities for violent assimilation to its atheist ideology. Apart from Tibetan Buddhists, the Party has sent more than 1 million Uyghurs — a Muslim ethnicity — to concentration camps in their native Xinjiang region and throughout China. Chinese Christians and adherents of the Falun Gong spiritual practice have also suffered persecution for decades.
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