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China Expels Tibetan Nuns from Serthar Religious Institute - 2001-08-20

Chinese police have expelled hundreds of Tibetan nuns, some monks, and Buddhist scholars from a religious institute in western China. Those expelled are said to be threatened with arrest if they return.

The London-based Tibet Information Network says the expulsions were ordered at the Serthar Buddhist Institute and Nunnery in China's Sichuan province, east of Tibet. Photographs displayed on the Information Network's website show the huts of nuns at the institute being torn down to prevent them from returning.

Some of those expelled have reportedly been forced to sign documents denouncing the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader now in exile in India. The Information Network quotes one monk as saying that many nuns and monks are severely depressed, and have threatened to commit suicide rather than leave the institute.

Richard Oppenheimer from the Information Network says the expulsions are part of a comprehensive government effort to reduce the population of Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns. "The monastic institute has been targeted by the authorities because they thought it was too big and too independent," he said. "The authorities were worried about the security aspect, whether it is safe to be allowed to continue."

Mr. Oppenheimer says that more than 6,000 monks, nuns, and Chinese students had lived at the Serthar institute before it was cleared out.

No official reason has been given for the expulsions, but China's leaders say large centers of Tibetan Buddhism could fuel opposition to their government, which has ruled Tibet since 1950.