A high-ranking monk has resigned his positions at the Buddhist Association of China after accusations of sexual assault and other misconduct made against him went viral on social media.
Xuecheng, who is also a member of China’s top political advisory body, stepped down as chairman and from other key roles after the State Administration for Religious Affairs launched an investigation earlier this month, the association said on Wednesday.
The 52-year-old, who is abbot of the well-known Longquan Temple on the outskirts of Beijing, was accused by two of the monastery’s former monks of coercing nuns into sex, building illegal temples and embezzling funds.
The claims were made in a 95-page document published by the pair on July 31 and promptly went viral on Chinese social media, fuelling support for the country’s #MeToo movement, which has been steadily gathering momentum.
Xuecheng denied the allegations in an online statement on August 1, saying they stemmed from “fabricated material” and “distorted facts”, but just a day later the religious affairs administration said it had started its own investigation.
The abbot’s resignation was announced at a Buddhist association meeting held to discuss measures to combat the commercialisation of Buddhism and Taoism, the group said in a statement.
Yanjue, abbot of Beijing’s Guangji Temple and deputy chairman of the association, will temporarily take over Xuecheng’s roles, it said.
Xuecheng did not respond to a request for comment.
Shi Xianjia and Shi Xianqi, the two women who compiled the damning report, said the abbot sent suggestive messages to two female monks at Longquan Temple and made unwanted sexual advances towards at least four others. The document was laden with detail, including screenshots of text messages said to have been sent by Xuecheng.
Other chapters outlined how he had overseen the illegal construction of several buildings at the monastery and embezzled funds.
Despite its now high profile, Shi Xianjia told China Newsweek on August 2 that it was not her intention to make the report public.
“Because that would have a negative impact on Buddhism,” she said. “At first we just showed it to some masters but then it was shared widely [online]. The government has taken some action and I don’t dare to say more.”
Neither Shi Xianjia nor Shi Xianqi have made any public statements since.
Longquan Temple is known as China’s hi-tech temple for its use of artificial intelligence technology to aid enlightenment and the development of a miniature robotic monk. Many of its monks are former top academics from prominent universities.
Both Shi Xianjia and Shi Xianqi have doctorates in engineering from the prestigious Tsinghua University.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the Buddhist association warned of the growing threat commercial activity poses towards monastic life.
“The commercialisation of Buddhism has disturbed the order of Buddhist activities, damaged the image and legal rights of Buddhism, and corrupted social values,” the statement said.
This article Chinese monk accused of sexual harassment resigns as chairman of Buddhist Association of China first appeared on South China Morning Post