President of Government-Controlled Buddhist Association Investigated for Sexual Abuse

President of Government-Controlled Buddhist Association Investigated for Sexual Abuse

Venerable Xuecheng, the abbott of Beijing’s Longquan Temple and the President of the Chinese Buddhist Association, a staunch supporter of the CCP, is investigated for sexual abuse. Is the CCP protecting Xuecheng or trying to get rid of him for political reasons?

On July 31, 2018, Chinese Buddhism was shocked by its more alarming scandal in recent years. A “Report on important matters” appeared on WeChat, accusing Venerable Xuecheng 学诚, the abbott of Beijing’s Longquan Temple, of having abused of Buddhist nuns for years, telling them that they would be “purified” through sexual relations with him. The report included explicit messages allegedly sent by Xuecheng to the nuns. The authors of the report are two former masters at Longquan Temple, Xianjia 贤佳, and Xianqi 贤启, and the text also includes a memoir by one of the nuns.

The report sent shockwaves through the Buddhist world. Xuecheng had a surprisingly quick career in the Chinese Buddhist Association, of which he became Secretary General in 2007 and President in 2011 at age 45, the youngest monk ever to be appointed to that position. The Chinese Buddhist Association is the Buddhist equivalent of the Three-Self Church for the Protestants or the Patriotic Association for the Catholics, i.e. a government-controlled body to which affiliation is mandatory for Buddhist temples and institutions throughout China.

On August 1, Xuecheng denied all charges with a short declaration posted on Weibo.

Initially, Chinese authorities banned any further circulation of the report and its discussion on social networks. They have now announced that the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) will investigate the matter. SARA is still active, although under the 2018 reform of the laws on religion it should eventually transfer responsibility for supervising religions to the United Front, i.e. in practice directly to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Xuecheng is known as a staunch supporter of the CCP, which made him a member of

The National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference 中国人民政治协商会议全国委员会. Interpretations differ on why the CCP, having ignored for years reports of sexual improprieties by Xuecheng, has now decided that he should be investigated. Some believe that the investigation is a move to protect Xuecheng and silence his accusers. Others think that Xuecheng is perceived as not favorable to the 2018 reform, and the CCP will get rid of him through the sexual abuse scandal. Tibetan Buddhists drily observed that Xuecheng never raised his voice in favor of Tibetan nuns who are routinely raped in the dreaded “transformation through education” camps.