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China investigates Buddhist monk for sexual assault

August 23, 2018

Police in China are investigating one of the country's most prominent monks over allegations he sexually assaulted nuns at his monastery in Beijing. The case has galvanized China's fledgling #MeToo movement.

Monk Xuecheng dressed in robes
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Imaginechina/Z. Qingmin

Chinese police have opened a criminal probe into sexual misconduct claims against high-profile Buddhist monk Xuecheng, China's top religious authority said Thursday.

A statement from the State Religious Affairs Administration said he is also facing censure from the official government-run Buddhist Association on suspicion of "violating Buddhist precepts."

The 51-year-old stepped down as head of the association earlier this month after fellow monks accused him of sending explicit text messages and demanding sexual favors from nuns at his monastery in Beijing's northwestern suburbs. They also said he had embezzled funds. Xuecheng denies the charges.

Read moreInfluential Buddhist monk accused in China's #MeToo movement

The Longquan monastery in Beijing
Xuecheng is accused of sexually harassing nuns and coercing them into sex at his Longquan monasteryImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Li Peng

#MeToo in China

The monks posted their allegations online in a 95-page report that included testimony from victims. They said four women gave in to Xuecheng's demands.

The religious affairs authority said in its statement that it had confirmed the monk had sent "harassing messages," and that investigators had uncovered evidence that his temple had violated national financial regulations.

Read more#MeToo movement meets China's firewall

Leilei Zhang, a feminist activist in Guangzhou, on China's fledgling #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.

Xuecheng, a Communist Party member and an influential political adviser to the central government, is one of the most well-known figures to face accusations in China's spreading #MeToo campaign.

The movement began in the country earlier this year, with women increasingly speaking out against sexual misconduct. In recent weeks, academics, civil society activists and television personalities have all been called out for inappropriate behavior.

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Xuecheng's Longquan monastery, on the outskirts of Beijing, is popular with educated Chinese and has a reputation for merging Buddhism with modern technology — last year it made headlines by introducing a robot monk capable of dispensing mantras.

nm/sms (AP, AFP)

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