Authorities in China’s Sichuan province have taken the unusual step of forcing Tibetan monks and other local residents to witness the demolition of a massive Buddha statue following official complaints that the statue was built too tall.
Radio Free Asia reports that Chinese authorities tore down the massive 99ft tall statue in Drago (Luhuo in Chinese) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, alongside 45 traditional prayer wheels used by Tibetan pilgrims and Buddhists.
The Buddha statue was originally built with the contributions of local Tibetans and is estimated to cost around 4 million yuan (U.S. $629,445).
The statue, which first received official approval from Chinese authorities, was declared illegal after its completion. Residents believe that the intention of the Chinese government was to attack Tibetan identity.
The publication was able to verify the destruction of the statue by analysis of commercial satellite imagery. Chinese authorities reportedly forced monks from the Thoesam Gatsel monastery and Tibetans living in Chuwar and nearby locations to watch the public demolition of the venerated Buddha statue.
Its demolition began on Dec. 12 and continued for nine days, said Tibetan sources.
“Local Tibetans from other villages were also forced to come to watch the demolition,” one Tibetan living in India said, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect family members still living in Drago. “A lot of police had also been deployed to make sure that spectators didn’t take pictures or videos or create disturbances.”
“It was just like the [1966-76] Cultural Revolution, when the Chinese government destroyed everything that was old in Tibet,” he said.
“Along with the Buddha statue, the prayer wheels erected near Drago monastery were also destroyed, and the way they orchestrated this demolition was very disrespectful,” another Tibetan living in India said, also speaking anonymously in order to protect his sources.
According to Tibetan sources, Drago county chief Wang Dongsheng oversaw the demolition and previously conducted a campaign of destruction in Sichuan’s Larung Gar Buddhist Academy.
Thousands of monks and nuns were expelled and their homes destroyed during the campaign.
“Now we are seeing the same kind of destruction here in Drago and restrictions placed on Tibetans in the region,” the source told RFA, who added that “the statue is now almost completely destroyed and that local Tibetans were forced to watch these events, with authorities saying this would teach Tibetans a lesson.”