(TibetanReview.net, Dec28’19) – Local authorities throughout China’s northern province of Hebei had stepped their purge of Tibetan Buddhism ahead of the upcoming visit by the central government’s religious work inspection team in the autumn, reported bitterwinter.org, which reports on religious liberty and human rights in China, Dec 27.
It was earlier report by Bitter Winter magazine that the United Front Work Department in Hebei had ordered in March this year for thorough investigation of the spread and development of Tibetan Buddhism in preparation for further crackdowns. Now the time was seen to have come for carrying out such further crackdown.
The report noted that the government of Zunhua, a county-level city in Hebei, had started preparing for the visit by the higher-ups in the summer. Shengquan Temple (translated literally as “Holy Spring Temple”), built in 2004 and popular with worshippers, was among the targets for the purge.
City officials were stated to have scrutinized the temple at least eight times, changing its look and confiscating books on Buddhism. And in August, the temple’s nine white stupas – the commemorative monuments that usually house sacred relics associated with the Buddha – were painted yellow, and their golden peaks were removed. The officials then said that the temple was “sinicized,” ie, made more representative of Chinese Buddhism.
The temple’s abbot – a lama from the province of Qinghai – being immensely grieved to see the stupas rectified thus, had on Nov 12 got all the peaks reinstalled on the stupas, and their bodies re-painted white again, without the government’s permission.
The provincial religious inspection team came to the temple the next day, flew into a rage, and ordered immediate ouster of the lama from the temple. Two days later, several dozen special police officers, led by the head of the Zunhua Public Security Bureau, stormed into the temple to implement the order. The lama’s residence and the entrance to the temple’s hall were sealed off.
And just days before the central government inspection, the government of Zunhua city arranged an excavator to destroy the temple’s stupas. The report continued that a fire truck was brought to dismantle one of the stupas, which was 30 meters tall. Some Buddhists tried to intervene, but police officers suppressed them. On Nov 20, all nine stupas were turned into ruins, and a Tibetan Maitreya statue in the temple was covered.
Three lay Buddhists were handcuffed and taken away in a police car for attempting to prevent the lama from being driven out, the report, written under the pseudonym of Yang Xiangwen due to security reasons, said.
“China is the domain of the Communist Party,” the report quoted a monk as saying. “Those who seek ways to fight against it will find themselves on the road to ruin.”
The report cited a government insider as saying the Hebei Province government’s crackdown on Tibetan Buddhism was in full swing, as all its religious symbols were banned without exception.
After the forced changes were implemented, a banner was displayed at the base of the stupa: “The people have faith, the country has power, and the nation has hope,” the report said.