Abbot of Beijing temple removed from post amid sex probe

Xuecheng, seen here in a 2016 photo, is one of the most prominent figures to face accusations in China’s growing #MeToo movement. The Communist Party member has been removed as abbot of Beijing’s Longquan Monastery, amid accusations of sexual and
Xuecheng, seen here in a 2016 photo, is one of the most prominent figures to face accusations in China’s growing #MeToo movement. The Communist Party member has been removed as abbot of Beijing’s Longquan Monastery, amid accusations of sexual and financial improprieties, including coercing several nuns to have sex with him. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • The former head of China's government-run Buddhist association has been removed as abbot of a Beijing temple following a sexual assault investigation, officials said.

Xuecheng, a Communist Party member and abbot of Beijing's Longquan Monastery, is one of the most prominent figures to face accusations in China's growing #MeToo movement.

He is under criminal investigation after a report by fellow monks accused him of sexual and financial improprieties, including coercing several nuns to have sex with him.

Investigators had also uncovered evidence that his monastery had broken national financial rules.

A prominent personality in Chinese Buddhist life with a social media following of millions, Xuecheng has been silent on China's Twitter-like Weibo service since Aug 1, when he posted a statement rejecting the sexual assault claims.

The Buddhist Association of China said in a statement that the decision to remove him as abbot was made in a meeting last Friday after consulting a report by the country's top religious authority.

"We have removed Xuecheng as the abbot of Beijing Longquan Monastery," it said.

He had stepped down as head of the Buddhist association earlier this month.

The 95-page report, which circulated online late last month, contained allegations from two monks that Xuecheng had sent explicit text messages to at least six women.

 
 
 
 

The monks accused Xuecheng of threatening or cajoling the women to have sex with him, claiming that it was a part of their Buddhist studies. In their report, the two monks, who are no longer members of the monastery, said four women gave in to Xuecheng's demands.

Both men were also asked to leave Longquan monastery after news of the report broke.

Located on the outskirts of Beijing, the monastery has made headlines for combining Buddhism with modern technology, launching last year a 0.6m-tall robot monk that dispenses mantras and karmic advice.

The #MeToo movement ignited in China earlier this year with more women starting to open up about sexual assaults, especially on university campuses.

Unlike in the West, where #MeToo has forced resignations and sparked widespread public debate, the authorities in China have sought to control the discussion, sometimes allowing, and at other times censoring, social media commentary.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2018, with the headline 'Abbot of Beijing temple removed from post amid sex probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe