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Top Buddhist Officials Join in Persecution of Activist Monk

August 23, 2006

Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that Master
Shengguan, a Buddhist monk and former political activist also known as Xu Zhiqiang, has been ordered to leave
Jiangxi Province after local authorities in Yichun City expelled him from the temple
he administered on August 19. In addition, police intimidated and detained the
temple’s Abbot, Master Jiequan. The moves follow increasing
pressure against Master Shengguan and Abbot Jiequan after their performance of
a religious ritual for people killed in the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, and
their efforts to end corrupt official appropriation of temple assets and
interference in temple affairs (see HRIC’s August 21 press release).

Sources in China told HRIC that on the evening of August
22, Yichun Municipal Religious Affairs Bureau Director Yang Xu, accompanied by
dozens of police officers, forced the temple’s Abbot, 88-year-old Master
Jiequan, to accompany them to the temple for an urgent meeting with Master
Shengguan at the Huacheng
. At the meeting,
Yang Xu reportedly forced Abbot Jiequan to issue a formal written notice
condemning Master Shengguan for improper relationships with three of the
temple’s female volunteers. Attached to the notice was an additional notice
from the chairman of the state Chinese Buddhist Association, Yicheng, stating that Master Shengguan
was expelled not only from the temple, but also from JiangxiProvince.
(This notice is attached to the Chinese version of this press release.)

When Abbot
Jiequan refused to issue the notice, the police officers reportedly threatened
him until he said to Master Shengguan, “The government wants you to go, Yicheng
wants you to go. Since you have someplace else you can go to, maybe you’d
better leave.” Master Shengguan replied that he would not go unless the Abbot
personally ordered him to do so, at which point the Abbot reportedly said, “All
right, if you’re not afraid, I’ll let it go.” The Abbot was then detained by
police officers, who forced him out of the temple and into a police vehicle.

Sources say
that later that afternoon, when the temple’s treasurer went to the bank to
withdraw some money, he found that Master Shengguan’s personal bank account under
his original name, Xu Zhiqiang, had been frozen by the Public Security Bureau.

Shengguan has refused to leave the Huacheng
in protest against
the false accusations made against him. In addition, the three women alleged to
be involved in an improper relationship with Master Shengguan have decided to
initiate a civil action against the Yichun Religious Affairs Bureau and against
the chairman of the Chinese Buddhist Association, Yicheng, for failing to
protect the Buddhist adherents under their care, and for libeling innocent
people without any formal investigation or even a shred of evidence.

deplores the Chinese authorities’ interference in the operations of the HuachengTemple,
and their undermining of freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by China’s
Constitution. The Chinese Buddhist Association should move to protect the
rights of the religious adherents under its care, rather than assisting in
oppression against them. HRIC urges the Jiangxi authorities to put an end to
the unlawful actions of the Yichun authorities, to ensure the personal safety
of Master Shengguan and Abbot Jiequan, and to initiate a full-scale
investigation of official corruption at the Huacheng Temple.

Background of the case:

Sources say
that Master Shengguan’s expulsion was prompted by an incident on June 4, 2006, when
he ignored pressure and obstruction by Yichun’s Religious Affairs and United
Front departments and joined with 1989 democracy activist Li Xiang to perform rituals
of salvation for people killed in the official crackdown on June 4, 1989. Master
Shengguan had already attracted controversy after taking over administration of
the temple in February this year when he cleaned up corruption and put a stop
to expropriation of assets and routine interference in the normal operations of
the temple by local officials.


  • 1984:
    Master Shengguan, originally named Xu Zhiqiang, graduated from the University of Science and Technology of China.

  • 1988:
    Xu published works by dissident journalist Liu Binyan that were subsequently

  • 1989:
    During the 1989 democracy movement, Xu organized protest marches in Xi’an and headed the Xi’an
    League for Advancement of Democracy. In June 1989 he went to Beijing
    to mourn those killed in the June 4th crackdown, and on November 17
    he was arrested and imprisoned in the ShanxiProvince

  • 1990:
    Following his release on September 1, 1990, Xu continued to promote democratic
    reform in China.

  • 2001:
    Xu was forced to leave his job at the Shanxi Travel Group because of official
    pressure from the Shanxi Provincial State Security Bureau.

  • 2002:
    In June, Xu took Buddhist orders and was ordained as a monk at Hubei’s Wuzu
    in December 2002.
    However, he continued to oppose the authorities’ trampling of basic human

  • 2004:
    In September, Master Shengguan acted as the public representative in a civil
    action on behalf of an imprisoned Falun Gong practitioner, Wu Yunrui, in which
    former Chinese President Jiang Zemin was accused of inhuman acts in the course
    of depriving people of their religious freedom.

  • 2005:
    In August, Master Shengguan became a lecturer in the history of world Buddhism
    at the Jiangxi Buddhist Institute

  • 2006:
    On January 20, Master Shengguan became executive director of the HuachengTemple.

  • 2006:
    On August 19, local officials told Master Shengguan that he could choose to
    leave the temple voluntarily, or to be forcibly removed through official
    enforcement of laws and regulations.

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