China investigates high-ranking Buddhist monk accused of coercing nuns into sex

BEIJING, Aug 2 (Reuters) - China's religious affairs administration said on Thursday it would investigate claims a high-ranking Buddhist monk sexually harassed nuns and coerced them into sex, the latest case of a prominent figure accused of sexual misconduct in China.

Xuecheng, the abbot of the well-known Longquan Temple on the outskirts of Beijing, has denied the allegations and on Wednesday night posted a statement from the temple on his Weibo microblog account saying the allegations stemmed from "fabricated material" and "distorted facts."

The allegations against Xuecheng, who also heads the Buddhist Association of China and is a member of the Communist Party's top political advisory body, were outlined in a 95-page document prepared by two former monks at the monastery.

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Buddhist Master Xuecheng
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Buddhist Master Xuecheng
Xuecheng, the delegate of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the abbot of the Longquan Temple, attends an opening session of the CPPCC at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 3, 2018. Picture taken March 3, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee
Buddhist Master Xuecheng arrives at the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 3, 2014. China's annual show of political theatre, the National People's Congress, opens this week -- the first under a new Communist Party leadership facing intractable problems including endemic corruption, slowing economic growth and tensions with neighbouring countries. AFP PHOTO / WANG ZHAO (Photo credit should read WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images)
Xuecheng, the abbot of the Longquan Temple and then deputy secretary of the Buddhist Association of China, speaks during a Buddhist culture festival in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China October 25, 2013. Picture taken October 25, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT.
Buddhist Master Xuecheng arrives at the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 3, 2014. China's annual show of political theatre, the National People's Congress, opens this week -- the first under a new Communist Party leadership facing intractable problems including endemic corruption, slowing economic growth and tensions with neighbouring countries. AFP PHOTO / WANG ZHAO (Photo credit should read WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images)
Xuecheng, the delegate of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the abbot of the Longquan Temple, attends an opening session of the CPPCC at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 3, 2018. Picture taken March 3, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee
Xuecheng, the delegate of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the abbot of the Longquan Temple, attends an opening session of the CPPCC at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 3, 2017. Picture taken March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee
Buddhist Master Xuecheng looks for his seat after he arrives at the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 3, 2014. China's annual show of political theatre, the National People's Congress, opens this week -- the first under a new Communist Party leadership facing intractable problems including endemic corruption, slowing economic growth and tensions with neighbouring countries. AFP PHOTO / WANG ZHAO (Photo credit should read WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images)
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The document swiftly went viral on Chinese social media on Tuesday amid a wave of other allegations that has stoked heated debate and seen China's fledgling #MeToo movement gain momentum and widen to different aspects of Chinese society despite government pressure and censorship.

Included in the document were extensive details and screenshots of explicit text messages allegedly sent by Xuecheng, including claims to nuns that they could be "purified" through the physical contact and that sex was part of their study of religious doctrines.

The monastery, in its statement, acknowledged that the document was prepared by the two former monks and that it reserved the right to take legal action against them.

China's State Administration for Religious Affairs said in a statement that it had started an investigation and was treating it as a matter of "high importance."

The Chinese Buddhist Association did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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Longquan Temple in Beijing, China
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Longquan Temple in Beijing, China
BEIJING, Oct. 9, 2015 -- Monks sit in meditation in Longquan Monastery in Beijing, Capital of China, Sept. 27, 2015. Longquan Monastery is located at the foot of the Fenghuangling on the western outskirts of Beijing. First built in Liao Dynasty, the monastery regains reputation as it embraces the Mobile Internet age. Every morning, Master Xuecheng answers netizens' questions on Longquan Monastery's Twitter-equivalent Weibo account, of which will be translated into nine languages and broadcast. Its WeChat , account pushes a cartoon called the Story of Xian'er to users, which tells the everyday life of Monk Xian'er. Longquan Monastery's website has four languages, including Chinese, English, Japanese and Korean. Master Xianxin, in charge of the informatization of the Monastery, has attended domestic IT industry conferences many times. Some important buildings in the Monastery require fingerprint identification. The library of the Monastery manage a collection of 100,000 books about buddhism, in use of the information system of National Library of China. The teleconference system will be in use when big meetings are called nationally. At Longquan Monastery, the monks excel not only in Buddhist doctrine, but also boast advanced tech skills and education levels. Monks with higher education, including alumni of China's top universities, such as Tsinghua and Peking University, are behind this technology-intensified monastery. Robot Xian'er, is the world first robot monk developed by the temple with artificial intelligence experts, which is able to sense its surroundings and answer questions about Buddhism. Though Buddhism is ancient and traditional, Buddhists are modern, Master Xuecheng said, and Buddhism and Buddhists should embrace modern ways to promote Buddhism. (Xinhua/Xue Dongmei via Getty Images)
BEIJING, Oct. 9, 2015 -- Monks sit in meditation in Longquan Monastery in Beijing, Capital of China, Sept. 27, 2015. Longquan Monastery is located at the foot of the Fenghuangling on the western outskirts of Beijing. First built in Liao Dynasty, the monastery regains reputation as it embraces the Mobile Internet age. Every morning, Master Xuecheng answers netizens' questions on Longquan Monastery's Twitter-equivalent Weibo account, of which will be translated into nine languages and broadcast. Its WeChat , account pushes a cartoon called the Story of Xian'er to users, which tells the everyday life of Monk Xian'er. Longquan Monastery's website has four languages, including Chinese, English, Japanese and Korean. Master Xianxin, in charge of the informatization of the Monastery, has attended domestic IT industry conferences many times. Some important buildings in the Monastery require fingerprint identification. The library of the Monastery manage a collection of 100,000 books about buddhism, in use of the information system of National Library of China. The teleconference system will be in use when big meetings are called nationally. At Longquan Monastery, the monks excel not only in Buddhist doctrine, but also boast advanced tech skills and education levels. Monks with higher education, including alumni of China's top universities, such as Tsinghua and Peking University, are behind this technology-intensified monastery. Robot Xian'er, is the world first robot monk developed by the temple with artificial intelligence experts, which is able to sense its surroundings and answer questions about Buddhism. Though Buddhism is ancient and traditional, Buddhists are modern, Master Xuecheng said, and Buddhism and Buddhists should embrace modern ways to promote Buddhism. (Xinhua/Xue Dongmei via Getty Images)
BEIJING, Oct. 9, 2015 -- Photo taken on Sept. 27, 2015 shows sunrise in Longquan Monastery in Beijing, Capital of China. Longquan Monastery is located at the foot of the Fenghuangling on the western outskirts of Beijing. First built in Liao Dynasty, the monastery regains reputation as it embraces the Mobile Internet age. Every morning, Master Xuecheng answers netizens' questions on Longquan Monastery's Twitter-equivalent Weibo account, of which will be translated into nine languages and broadcast. Its WeChat , account pushes a cartoon called the Story of Xian'er to users, which tells the everyday life of Monk Xian'er. Longquan Monastery's website has four languages, including Chinese, English, Japanese and Korean. Master Xianxin, in charge of the informatization of the Monastery, has attended domestic IT industry conferences many times. Some important buildings in the Monastery require fingerprint identification. The library of the Monastery manage a collection of 100,000 books about buddhism, in use of the information system of National Library of China. The teleconference system will be in use when big meetings are called nationally. At Longquan Monastery, the monks excel not only in Buddhist doctrine, but also boast advanced tech skills and education levels. Monks with higher education, including alumni of China's top universities, such as Tsinghua and Peking University, are behind this technology-intensified monastery. Robot Xian'er, is the world first robot monk developed by the temple with artificial intelligence experts, which is able to sense its surroundings and answer questions about Buddhism. Though Buddhism is ancient and traditional, Buddhists are modern, Master Xuecheng said, and Buddhism and Buddhists should embrace modern ways to promote Buddhism. (Xinhua/Xue Dongmei via Getty Images)
Master Xianfan sits next to robot Xian'er as he poses for photograph at Longquan Buddhist temple on the outskirts of Beijing, April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
BEIJING, Sept. 4, 2015 -- Buddhists hold the praying ceremony at Longquan temple in Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 4, 2015. Religious circles in China on Friday held praying and various activities to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War. (Xinhua/Ding Haitao via Getty Images)
Master Xianfan looks at robot monk Xian'er as he prepares to pose for photograph in the main building of Longquan Buddhist temple on the outskirts of Beijing, April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
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(Reporting by Philip Wen; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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