One of China’s most influential monks has become the latest figure mired in sexual misconduct allegations as the country’s #MeToo movement gathers momentum.
Two monks sent a detailed report to the government claiming Abbot Xuecheng sexually harassed several nuns, including by sending them messages and coercing them into having sex with him, according to the BBC.
The Beijing-based abbot, who is the youngest head of the Buddhist Association of China, denies the accusations. In a response posted on Chinese social network Weibo, his temple accused the monks who filed the complaint of “distorting facts.”
Monks Xianjia and Xianqi said the abbot at Longquan Temple targeted six nuns. Four reportedly gave in to his coercions.
“Longquan temple is under his spell,” said the report. “Xuecheng manipulated disciples to serve his ‘Buddhist empire.’”
According to the 95-page report, the abbot pressured the nuns into having sex by claiming it was part of their study of Buddhist doctrines. One of the nuns filed a police report in June alleging Xuecheng sexually assaulted her, according to the report.
The monk’s account was circulated on China’s social media networks after it leaked online, though several links to it appear to have been taken down.
Abbot Xuecheng was taken in for questioning about the report, and later released, state newspaper Global Times reported.
China has seen an increasing number of sexual misconduct allegations as the #MeToo movement gains force there, prompting a cultural reckoning over a topic not normally publicly discussed and often not taken seriously by authorities.
In January, a U.S.-based academic accused her PhD professor of sexually assaulting her. The account went viral on Weibo, and the professor was later fired. Despite reported efforts by the government to censor some of the online discussions around the movement, including blocking the #MeToo hashtag, accusations of sexual misconduct have hit several prominent figures including activists, intellectuals, and others.
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