BEIJING – Human Rights Watch said on Thursday that Chinese authorities have imposed new administrative controls in Larung Gar, the biggest independent academy of Tibetan Buddhism, alleging that the measures infringe the freedom of religion.
According to HRW, since August the academy – founded in 1980 – is being run by a committee of the Communist Party of China and the deputy police chief of Kandze prefecture in Sichuan province has been made the director.
“The new government controls over Larung Gar fly in the face of Party claims that China respects constitutionally protected religious beliefs,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.
The nonprofit said it had obtained an official document drafted by the new committee that announces significant changes in the running of Larung Gar.
According to HRW, 200 members of the CPC and officials are taking over all management, finances, security, admissions, and even the choice of textbooks at the center, following demolitions and expulsions in 2017.
The document is four pages long, written in both Chinese and Tibetan, and is apparently intended for public distribution.
The document also makes it mandatory for residents and visitors to register their identity and establishes a color-coded tag system, for monks, nuns and lay devotees.
According to the document, 40 percent of teaching at Larung Gar Buddhist Institute must now consist of classes in politics and other non-religious subjects and the primary criterion for accepting a student will be firm political convictions.
It also says that the institute will teach students to “honor and support the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system.”
Only residents of Sichuan province will be allowed to apply.
Sources cited by HRW said that a large building has already been constructed to house Communist Party cadres.
The nonprofit said that the scheme appears designed to micromanage religious institutions rather than close them down and to produce a new generation of Buddhist teachers trained equally in religious doctrine and state ideology in order to adapt “Tibetan Buddhism to socialist society.”