ONE of China’s top Buddhist monks is facing a government probe over accusations of sexual misconduct, in what is seen by some as an indication the #MeToo movement is gaining traction in the world’s most populous nation.

Longquan Monastery abbot Shi Xuecheng is accused of harassing and demanding sexual favours from numerous nuns in a 95-page statement compiled by two fellow monks at the centre of Buddhist learning in Beijing.

The statement including evidence from the alleged victims leaked this week on social media, prompting an outcry and unusual coverage by state media before it was censored.

China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs said it would investigate the claims. Xuecheng and the monastery denied the accusations, which also included claims of embezzlement.

It is unclear if Xuecheng is still serving as abbot. Shi Xianqi, a monastery deacon who had reported the abbot, said he and the other whistleblower, Shi Xianjia, had been expelled from the monastery and were co-operating with the government investigation.

Xuecheng, who heads the Buddhist Association of China and serves on a political advisory body to the government, is the latest high-profile man to fall under scrutiny as China’s #MeToo movement gains momentum.

Well-known university professors, activists and media figures have been accused online and placed under investigation, with at least one dismissed from his post, as more women speak out despite the risk of censorship and official retribution.

Xuecheng, 51, is a well-known figure in China, having published numerous books and daily blog posts for his large social media following.

China has about 250 million Buddhists and countless more followers of folk religions containing Buddhist elements.

Born Fu Ruilin in southern Fujian province, the charismatic monk is credited with reviving the fortunes of 1,000-year-old Longquan Monastery in north-west Beijing, known these days for attracting tech entrepreneurs and elite university graduates who flock there to spend days – or years – in spiritual retreat and Buddhist study.

The temple generated headlines in recent years for allowing monks to study on iPads and building a monk shaped robot able to answer questions about Buddhism.

Text messages and documentation compiled by Longquan’s whistleblowing monks painted a picture of a cloistered life where access to phones and the internet was limited – but where the abbot’s power was not.

The two men, who described themselves as engineering doctorate holders who had entered monastic life more than a decade ago, compiled screenshots of texts and accounts of women who said Xuecheng sent suggestive messages and forced them to have sex.

The leaked document also included financial statements suggesting Shi Xuecheng embezzled nearly $1.5 million (£1.1m).

Xianqi said Xuecheng’s power in the temple meant that only the government could step in to protect the nuns.

The religious affairs administration has the power to remove him from his official position but not to bring criminal charges.

“The monks have been controlled for too long to be able to self-cleanse, self-discipline,” said Xianqi, whose lay name is Du Qixin. “We did this to stop more bhikkhuni (nuns) from being hurt, so we asked the government for help.”

On Wednesday night, Xuecheng posted a statement on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. Writing under the monastery’s name to more than a million followers, Xuecheng dismissed the document as “forged materials, distorted facts and false accusations”.

Local media reported that the park surrounding Longquan Monastery has been closed for “safety reasons” as a result of potential mudslides following recent heavy rain.