August 20, 2001, Beijing (AP)--Armed police have rousted hundreds of Tibetan nuns, some monks and Buddhist scholars from a nunnery and monastic institute in western China, razing their homes and threatening them with arrest if they return, a monitoring group said Monday.

Some of those thrown out of the Serthar Buddhist Institute and Nunnery in Sichuan province, just east of Tibet, were reportedly forced tosign documents denouncing the Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader, and promising not to return, according to the Tibet Information Network.

The London-based group called the expulsions part of a systematic clearing-out of Serthar on orders from provincial authorities and the central government in Beijing. The reason was not immediately clear, though China's government often views centers of Tibetan Buddhism as potential stewpots of opposition to Beijing's 51-year rule over Tibet.

Police in Sida County, where the nunnery and institute is located, refused to answer questions Monday when contacted by The Associated Press. But a police official in adjacent Ganzi County, who gave his name only as Mr. Gao, said he had heard of nuns and monks being forced to leave Sida. No such expulsions have taken place in Ganzi County, Gao said.

The ethnically mixed institute, also known as Larung Gar and, in Chinese, as Wumin, is a Buddhist academy in Sichuan's Ganzi Prefecture. The Information Network and the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile in India describe it as staunchly nonpolitical.

The Dalai Lama founded the Tibetan government-in-exile in 1960, a year after he fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. Chinese troops occupied Tibet in 1950, taking control the region Beijing says has been a part of China for centuries.

The Information Network's Web site showed a picture of wreckage it said was a demolished home at Serthar. It said the woman in the picture ``appears to be a nun collecting belongings from the wreckage.'' The expulsions in Sida County are scheduled to be completed by October, the Information Network said. It said more than 1,000 dwellings had been destroyed since mid-June. Roads leading to the institute were blocked, it said. More than 6,000 monks, nuns and students were believed to live at Serthar before the expulsions began.

In June, the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile in Dharmsala, India, said the monk who headed the institute, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, 68, had been detained and some expulsions had begun. At the time, a spokesman for the Dalai Lama called such activity strange because Phuntsok was involved in no political activity.

The Information Network linked the expulsions to the ethnic diversity of Serthar's nuns and monks--and the Chinese government's fear that a wider sphere of its citizenry could be exposed to Tibetan Buddhism.

Phuntsok founded the institute in 1980 as a personal hermitage. Although not officially a monastery, it became home to thousands of monks and nuns who built their own accommodations as they arrived.
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