Tourists and other foreign visitors are being kept away from the large Yachen Gar Tibetan Buddhist complex in western China’s Sichuan province, as authorities move to reduce its population of monks and nuns, a French journalist who traveled to the area says.
Yachen Gar, located in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture’s Palyul (Baiyu) county and founded in 1985, until recently housed an estimated 10,000 residents devoted to scriptural study and meditation, but received few outsiders due to its remote location.
Now, authorities have restricted access to the sprawling complex and areas nearby, Brice Pedroletti, a reporter for Le Monde, told Radio Free Asia.
“There are now heavy restrictions for tourists traveling in Tibetan areas, even when they carry visas allowing them to travel,” Pedroletti said.
“We told them that we were tourists with documents allowing us to visit Yachen Gar, but this did not convince them,” he said.
Members of Yachen Gar’s state-controlled management committee then arrived, and Pedroletti and his group were questioned for five hours, he said.
“They chased us away the next day, and we could not see Yachen Gar or the [Larung Gar] complex in nearby Serthar [Seda] county,” he said.
Restrictions on Yachen Gar and the better-known Larung Gar complex in Serthar are part of “an unfolding political strategy” aimed at controlling the influence and growth of these important centers for Tibetan Buddhist study and practice, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said in a March 13 report, “Shadow of Dust Across the Sun.”
“[Both centers] have drawn thousands of Chinese practitioners to study Buddhist ethics and receive spiritual teaching since their establishment, and have bridged Tibetan and Chinese communities,” ICT said in its report.