Buddhist leader the latest to face scrutiny

Master Xuecheng, head of the Buddhist Association of China and abbot of Beijing's Longquan monastery, was accused of having threatened six nuns to have sex with him.
Master Xuecheng, head of the Buddhist Association of China and abbot of Beijing's Longquan monastery, was accused of having threatened six nuns to have sex with him.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

The latest public figure to be engulfed by China's #MeToo movement is one of the country's key religious leaders.

Master Xuecheng, head of the Buddhist Association of China and abbot of Beijing's Longquan monastery, was accused in a 95-page report of having threatened six nuns to have sex with him.

He is also alleged to have ordered the building of illegal structures at the temple.

The report, written by two former masters at the monastery, went viral last week before censors culled it from Chinese social media sites. The religious authorities have since opened a probe into the matter.

Before the allegations erupted, Master Xuecheng, 51, was a revered figure in Chinese Buddhism. He became the abbot of a monastery in Fujian province when he was just 23, then the youngest abbot in China.

He is also the youngest to head the Buddhist Association and is a political adviser to the government.

The abbot is a proponent of using technology to reach out to believers, amassing more than a million followers on Weibo, China's Twitter.

The Longquan monastery which he heads is known for its highly educated monks. Master Xuecheng has a post-graduate degree from the Buddhist Academy of China. The two former masters who wrote the report held engineering PhDs from the elite Tsinghua University before they turned to monkhood.

The monastery is also famed for developing a humanoid robot monk that can answer questions from visitors and communicate with them on messaging app WeChat.

Danson Cheong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2018, with the headline 'Buddhist leader the latest to face scrutiny'. Print Edition | Subscribe