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Monday, 20 August, 2001, 21:05 GMT 22:05 UK
China cracks down on Buddhists
Chinese armed police
China's armed police have a reputation for ruthlessness
By religious affairs correspondent Corinne Podger

A Tibetan monitoring agency says Chinese authorities have forced hundreds of nuns and monks to leave a Buddhist institute in southwest China.

The London-based Tibet Information Network says the expulsions took place at the Serthar Institute in Sichuan province.
Chinese Buddhist monk
Serthar had a religious population of 7,000

The Network says the expulsions were carried out by armed police, who went on to destroy hundreds of homes.

There are also reports that some of those thrown out of the Institute were forced to sign documents denouncing their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Buddhist academy

The Tibet Information Network says the expulsions are part of a systematic clearing-out of Serthar, a Buddhist academy described by the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile in India as "strictly non-political".

The authorities have yet to respond to the allegations, but a local official told reporters that some evictions had taken place because the number of people living at the site far exceeded the limits set by the Chinese authorities.

Buddha in temple in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, China
China does not ban Buddhism but seeks to control it
More than a thousand dwellings near the Institute have been destroyed in the past two months.

The Institute was founded in 1980 by its senior lama, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok.

Although it has never officially been a monastery, it has become one of the largest centres of Tibetan Buddhism in China, home to thousands of monks and nuns who built their own accommodation as they arrived.

See also:

06 May 01 | Media reports
China enters biggest Buddhist statue race
23 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
US backs Dalai Lama
23 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Dalai Lama: Spiritual leader in exile
09 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
China renews attack on Dalai Lama
13 Dec 00 | Europe
China 'blows up churches'
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