To: President Michel Temer of Brazil
President Valdimir Putin of Russia
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India
President Jacob Zuma, South Africa
7 October 2016
As concerned citizens of BRICS countries, we are writing to ask you to urgently raise concern with China, bi-laterally and jointly during your forthcoming summit, about serious contraventions of the Tibetan people’s right to religious and cultural freedoms.
The situation in Tibet has declined dramatically in recent years with the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, religion and privacy severely restricted. In March 2016 international rights group ‘Freedom House’ ranked Tibet as the 2nd ‘Worst of the Worst’ in their annual ‘Freedom in the World 2016’ report , with only Syria scoring lower.
In July 2016, large-scale demolitions of monks’ and nuns’ homes  at one of the world’s largest monastic institutions, Larung Gar in eastern Tibet (Ch: Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province), commenced under Chinese Government orders.  On 20 July a Chinese work team began implementing an order issued by local authorities to reduce the number of practitioners at the Academy by half – from 10,000 to 5,000 – by September 2017, by evicting monks and nuns and destroying their homes. Residents were not consulted about the planned removals and no explanation for the demolitions and evictions were given until the work team had begun carrying them out.
The demolitions at Larung Gar have caused distress among the residents of Larung Gar and the wider population of Tibet. Three Tibetan nuns have committed suicide at Larung Gar in protest against the mass demolitions. Two of them, Rinzin Drolma and Tsering Drolma left notes referring to the demolitions or to Government “harassment”. A third, Semga, also killed herself, though details on how and when she died are not immediately available. There are reports of a further attempted suicide “though others intervened in time and saved her.” 
A second Tibetan Buddhist institution in eastern Tibet, Yachen Gar, is also under threat. Human Rights Watch has reported that since about April 2016, up to 1,000 nuns at Yachen Gar have been compelled to leave the institution and return to their homes. All the nuns were from the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), and their instructions to leave came from TAR officials, not the local authorities.
As well as the destruction of dwellings and expulsion of religious students, the authorities are increasing surveillance, implementing entry screening procedures and forming new management committees to be led by a majority of government officials. Those believed to have shared images and information have come under investigation from the authorities.  All of this interference in Tibetan Buddhist affairs is counter to China’s own Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both of which guarantee religious freedom for all. 
We ask you to make a public statement of your concern, and raise this as a matter of urgency with China’s President Xi Jinping during the BRICS Summit next week. We urge that you call on him to:
- Immediately cease the demolition of living quarters of residents, students and practitioners at the Larung Gar Buddhist Institute, Sertar County, Ganzi Prefecture, Sichuan Province.
- Ensure local Tibetan religious leaders of Larung Gar are allowed to make decisions concerning any structural changes, and cease demands that Larung Gar be run by Chinese government officials.
- Stop the expulsion of residents and students and allow all practitioners at Larung Gar to freely practice their religion.
- Allow an immediate diplomatic visit with unfettered access to Tibet including Larung Gar and Yachen Gar, and urge dates be agreed for a visit from the High Commissioner for Human Rights to China and Tibet as agreed during the UN Universal Periodic Review of China in 2013.
We are sending this letter as part of a global action by Tibet Groups around the world, in recognition of the global importance of Larung Gar institute, and the widespread concern about China’s lack of respect for religious freedom. We urge you to take action immediately.
Nyima Lhamo, Regional Coordinator for Asia, International Tibet Network
On behalf of
Centro de Cultura Tibetana, Brazil
Save Tibet Foundation, Russia
Tibet House, Russia
Students for a Free Tibet India
Tibetan Womens’ Association Centrex, India
Core Group for the Tibetan Cause, India
Tibet Society of South Africa
African Committee for Tibet
International Tibet Network is a global coalition of over 180 Tibet-related organisations from all over the world, providing strategies, trainings, campaign tools and advocacy for Tibetan rights.
- Destruction Proceeds at Larung Gar, With at Least 600 Structures Torn Down So Far http://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/demolition-07292016161347.html
- Serta County Order on Larung Gar Monastery; Human Rights Watch, July 2016: https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/06/09/serta-county-order-larung-gar-monastery
- Tibetan Nun Commits Suicide at Buddhist Complex in China’s Sichuan Province; More Suicides Reported in Protest of Destruction at Sichuan’s Larung Gar; Radio Free Asia, August 2016: http://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/tibetan-nun-commits-suicide-at-buddhist-complex-in-chinas-sichuan-province-08082016130313.html | and http://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/suicides-08292016143614.html
- Chinese Authorities Block Reporting From Larung Gar as Demolition Proceeds; Radio Free Asia, August 2016: http://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/proceeds-08032016134518.html
- Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution states, “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.”
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion… to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”