BEIJING - One of China’s most high-profile Buddhist monks has resigned from a top national post following reports of sexual misconduct, a religious association said Wednesday.
The Buddhist Association of China said its president Xuecheng (SHWEI’-chung) had passed his duties to a deputy.
The case, which was covered widely in the Chinese press and discussed on social media, was seen as a sign of the #metoo movement’s growing momentum in China. A small but increasing number of academics, civil society activists and one of China’s best known television hosts have been called out for inappropriate behavior, although the movement has yet to percolate into government circles.
The announcement of Xuecheng’s resignation was included in a report about the Buddhist association’s regular meeting and did not mention the controversy surrounding the powerful monk. Fellow monks accused Xuecheng earlier this year of harassing and demanding sexual favors from nuns at his Beijing monastery as well as embezzling funds, allegations that Xuecheng has denied on social media.
Xuecheng has not commented publicly on his resignation.
One of China’s best known monks and authors, Xuecheng was an influential political adviser to the central government while heading the national Buddhist association. His monastery in the outskirts of northwest Beijing, Longquan, is popular with educated Chinese, including many who give up high-paying jobs to devote their lives to religious study.
Two long-serving monks compiled a 95-page dossier on Xuecheng this year and turned it over to Beijing police. The document, which included alleged screenshots of the abbot’s text messages to nuns and the monastery’s financial statements, leaked on Chinese social media in July and became a national sensation. Xuecheng has dismissed the records as fabrications.
China has roughly 250 million Buddhists. That number is likely growing fast at a moment when some young Chinese are turning increasingly spiritual — and embracing Taoism, Christianity and Islam as well.
The powerful State Administration of Religious Affairs, which regulates religion under the Communist government, announced an investigation into Xuecheng last week.
The agency reposted the Buddhist Association of China’s report on its own website on Wednesday but did not carry additional comment or provide updates on its investigation.
Separately on Wednesday, lawyers representing Zhu Jun, a high-profile host on state-operated China Central Television, said they were suing social media users who posted and recirculated allegations of harassment against Zhu by one of his former interns.
Zhu, the host of CCTV’s Spring Festival evening gala and one of China’s most recognizable faces, has denied the allegations. Zhu’s lawyers posted their intentions on the popular Wechat social media platform.