Fri, Aug 24, 2018 - Page 1 News List

China investigates top Buddhist leader for sexual assault

AFP, BEIJING

Shi Xuecheng, abbot of Beijing’s Longquan Monastery, prays during a memorial event for Master Mengcan Dec. 3 last year at Mount Wutai in Xinzhou in northern China’s Shanxi Province.

Photo: AFP

The former head of China’s government-run Buddhist association is under criminal investigation for alleged sexual assault, the Chinese National Religious Affairs Authority said yesterday.

Shi Xuecheng (釋學誠), a Chinese 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 stepped down from the Buddhist Association of China earlier this month after a report by fellow monks accused him of sexual and financial improprieties.

In the 95-page report that circulated online late last month, two monks accused Shi of sending explicit text messages to at least six women, threatening or cajoling them to have sex with him, claiming it was a part of their Buddhist studies.

The authority said it had confirmed that Shi had sent “harassing messages,” adding that authorities had begun a criminal investigation into the report’s charges of sexual assault.

Investigators had also uncovered evidence that the Longquan Monastery had breached national financial regulations, it said in a statement on its Web site.

Shi, 51, is also a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

A prominent personality in Chinese Buddhist life with a social media following of millions, Shi’s Sina Weibo account has been silent since Aug. 1, when he posted a statement rejecting allegations of sexual misconduct.

In their report, the two monks, who are no longer members of the monastery, said four women gave in to Shi’s demands.

One of the authors said on social media that he was compelled to speak out after the victims were ignored by authorities, who said they could not investigate.

The report and posts about it have been removed or censored.

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

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