This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
The Chinese government has demolished a third Tibetan Buddhist statue in what sources told RFA is the latest example of official efforts to stamp out the Tibetans’ religious traditions.
The statue of Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, is the third verified by RFA as having been destroyed by Chinese officials since December. It once stood three-stories high at the Chanang Monastery in Drago (in Chinese Luhuo) county of the Kardze (in Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. It was razed in late January, sources living in exile and satellite imagery revealed.
“This is the second massive destruction in Drago in January alone,” a Tibetan living in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
RFA reported that another three-story statue at a different monastery in Drago had been destroyed in early January, only weeks after authorities toppled a 99-foot Buddha statue just 900 meters (2,700) away. A three-story structure is around 40 feet high.
Satellite imagery of the Chanang Monastery taken Oct. 3, 2019 shows the the site of the statue of Padmasambhava which stood three-stories high, but an image taken Feb. 25, 2022 shows the destruction of the statue as indicated by the circular objects on the ground.
“Though there has been no explanation of the reasons for its destruction, it falls in line with the Chinese government’s policy of demolishing Tibetan religious sites in the region,” the exiled Tibetan said.
The source noted that the Padmasambhava statue had only been built six years ago.
“Though the Chinese authorities warned that they would demolish the statue last year, one of the Lamas of the monastery had documentation supporting the significance of the statue, so the demolition was pushed to a later date,” the source said.
“After the appointment of Wang Dongsheng as the secretary of the Drago County Party Committee in 2021, he put more priority on the statue’s demolition in line with the Chinese Communist Party’s hardline policies against Tibetans,” the source said.
Sometimes, Chinese authorities make up regulations to justify the demolition of Tibetan statues, another Tibetan exile told RFA.
“When the Chinese government demolished the 99-foot statue of Buddha and the three-story statue of Maitreya Buddha at Gaden Namyal Ling monastery in Drago, they trotted out unbelievable justifications such as that the height of the statue was not appropriate … or that it was blocking the pathway within the monastery compound,” the second source said.
“But this statue of Padmasambhava in not in the way of the monastery, so it is evident that it can be nothing but the Chinese government’s encroachment on Tibetans’ religious freedom,” the second source said.