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Official Responsible for Destruction of Tibetan Buddhist Sites Reported Dead, says Radio Free Asia

A Chinese government official of Tibetan ethnicity who approved the destruction of a huge Buddha statue died after falling from the fifth floor of a mall in Chengdu, according to a statement issued by local Chinese authorities and two sources inside Tibet.

Wang Dongsheng, 53, “died on the spot” after the fall on Tuesday, local authorities said in a statement. How he fell and the official cause of his death was still under investigation.

The two sources in Tibet, who requested that they not be named for safety reasons, also told Radio Free Asia that he died immediately after the fall.

In 2021, Wang was named the chief of Drago county, a Tibetan-majority area of eastern Tibet, where he directed the demolition of the 30-meter (99-foot) Buddha statue following official complaints that it had been built too high.

Dozens of traditional prayer wheels used by Tibetan pilgrims and other Buddhist worshipers were also destroyed. Officials forced monks from Thoesam Gatsel monastery and Tibetans living in Chuwar and other nearby towns to witness the destruction that began in December 2021.

RFA verified the destruction of the statue through analysis of commercial satellite imagery.

In August 2022, Wang was moved to a new position as director of the Science and Technology Bureau in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in China’s Sichuan province.

The statement from the Chengdu Municipal Party Committee said local authorities received a report at 3:03 p.m. on Tuesday that a man had fallen at about 1:50 p.m. at a mall in Chengdu’s Wuhou County. A medical team was dispatched to the site, the statement said.

Local authorities in Chengdu and representatives of the Chengdu Microscopic Hand and Foot Surgery Hospital, where sources said Wang’s body was taken, didn’t immediately respond to RFA’s requests for comment.

Destroying statues

The Buddha statue in Drago was built in 2015 with contributions of about 40 million yuan (US$6.3 million) by local Tibetans and was designed to withstand earthquakes, a former Drago resident now living in India told RFA.

In January 2022, a month after the destruction of the Buddha statue, Chinese authorities demolished two three-story statues in two separate monasteries in Drago county.

The statue of Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, had been at the Chanang Monastery in Drago county. The other statue was of Maitreya Buddha at Gaden Namyal Ling monastery, also in Drago.

The county has been a hotbed of resistance against the Chinese government since 2008, prompting interventions by authorities, including significant crackdowns in 2009 and 2012. Beijing views any sign of Tibetan disobedience as an act of separatism, threatening China’s national security.

Edited by Tenzin Pema and Matt Reed.

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