China destroys Buddhist statue at Tibet’s oldest monastery

BEIJING, June 15, 2007 (AFP) – Chinese authorities have removed a giant Buddhist statue from Tibet’s oldest monastery, in a move US-based rights group said Friday reflected an ongoing crackdown in the Tibetan region. The 30-foot (nine metre) gold and copper-plated statue of Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Buddhism, was torn down by Chinese police in mid-May at Tibet’s Samye monastery, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet said.

“There has been a trend towards the tightening of control over religion in Tibet, and this demolition is an example of the aggressive enforcement of wide-ranging new regulatory measures,” the group said in a statement.

The statue had just been built, apparently from funds raised by Chinese Buddhists from southern China’s Guangdong province, the group said, citing a growing interest by Han Chinese in aiding Tibet to protect its unique culture and religion.

The government of the Tibet Autonomous Region acknowledged that the statue had been torn down in a statement posted on its website on June 9.

Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, Special Envoy of the exiled Dalai Lama, told the rights group that the destruction of the statue was an effort by China’s communist government to en