It was this program of sending clergy abroad that led to Xuecheng’s downfall. Most of those sent overseas were nuns. Like Xuecheng, they had taken a vow of chastity. But unlike other clergy members, who are banned by monastic rules from using cellphones, these nuns were given phones so they could communicate when overseas.

Then half a dozen were summoned to meet Xuecheng for instruction.

Xuecheng began sending them explicit messages, according to transcripts reprinted in the 95-page report, such as asking one if she would be willing to be caressed and have intercourse. When she said no, he said she had to “break through” this kind of thinking. He started a conversation with another nun, asking her, “Who do you belong to?” Her answer: “The Master,” meaning Xuecheng, an exchange that made clear the power relationship between the two.

Late last year, the nuns contacted two senior monks, who took up their cause. In their report, the monks also assert that donations to the temple were siphoned into Xuecheng’s personal bank account.

But — symptomatic of China’s top-down political system — the monks alleged that Xuecheng blocked their efforts to begin a formal investigation. In February, the monks forwarded their report to the government, and in August someone posted it on social media. Later that month, Xuecheng was stripped of his main titles and the authorities confirmed he had sent the messages.

Li Tingting, a prominent Chinese feminist activist now living in London, said the charges represent the spread of the Chinese #MeToo movement beyond relatively soft targets, like figures in academia, the news media and nongovernmental organizations, who in China generally have little political clout.

Unclear, though, is why the allegations against Xuecheng were made public. One reason may be that the monks were worried that the report was being swept under the carpet. (Efforts to reach the monks who wrote it were unsuccessful.)

But others say the report was intended to wake up the faithful to the dangers of Xuecheng’s embrace of social media and social elites.



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