China conducts demolitions at Tibetan Buddhist study site

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities in southwestern Sichuan province have evicted followers and razed scores of homes at one of the world's largest centers of Tibetan Buddhist learning in a months-long operation that has drawn protests from Tibetans in exile.

Local officials in Garze prefecture say they are carrying out demolitions to prevent overcrowding and to renovate Larung Gar, a sprawling, mountainside settlement that housed more than 10,000 monks and nuns who stayed and studied for months at a time. Authorities are reportedly seeking to cut the population by half, to 5,000.

Overseas Tibetan groups say the forced evictions and demolitions are meant to put a damper on the spread of Tibetan Buddhism. Larung Gar's academy has increasingly attracted large numbers of disciples from China's Han ethnic majority as well as foreign visitors.