China investigates high-ranking Buddhist monk accused of coercing nuns into sex

Abbot of the Longquan Temple on the outskirts of Beijing denies allegations, saying they stemmed from ‘fabricated material’ and ‘distorted facts’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 August, 2018, 8:50pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 August, 2018, 10:11pm

China’s religious affairs administration said on Thursday it would investigate claims a high-ranking Buddhist monk sexually harassed nuns and coerced them into sex, the latest case of a prominent figure accused of sexual misconduct in the country.

Xuecheng, the abbot of the well-known Longquan Temple on the outskirts of Beijing, has denied the allegations and on Wednesday night posted a statement from the temple on Weibo – China’s Twitter-like service – saying the allegations stemmed from “fabricated material” and “distorted facts”.

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The claims made against Xuecheng, who also heads the Buddhist Association of China and is a member of the Communist Party’s top political advisory body, were outlined in a 95-page document prepared by two former monks at the monastery.

The document swiftly went viral on Chinese social media on Tuesday amid a wave of other allegations that has stoked heated debate and seen China’s fledgling #MeToo movement gain momentum and widen to different aspects of society despite government pressure and censorship.

Included in the document were extensive details and screenshots of explicit text messages allegedly sent by Xuecheng, including claims to nuns that they could be “purified” through the physical contact and that sex was part of their study of religious doctrines.

The monastery, in its statement, acknowledged that the document was prepared by the two former monks and that it reserved the right to take legal action against them.

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China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs said in a statement that it had started an investigation and was treating it as a matter of “high importance”.

The Chinese Buddhist Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The global #MeToo movement was triggered by accusations by dozens of women against US film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, including rape, triggering a wider scandal that has roiled Hollywood and beyond. Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.

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The catalyst for a Chinese #MeToo-style movement came in December last year when a US-based Chinese software engineer published a blog post accusing a professor at a Beijing university of sexual harassment.

In China, the hashtag #MeToo has so far appeared more than 77 million times on Weibo, although most the posts with that hashtag are not viewable.