Two men arrested after gaining online infamy for impersonating Buddhist monks have been identified as singers affiliated with a Beijing entertainment company.
A Beijing newspaper Friday named the men as Zhao Wenbo and Ren Chuankun, originally from Heilongjiang and Anhui provinces respectively but living in China’s capital for the past several years.
Jiang Xinxin, general manager of the Beijing Fusheng Tiansheng Media Company revealed their identity to the New Beijing News. Jiang said that Zhao and Ren had occasionally worked with his company, but stressed that the two men were not under contract.
The New Beijing News confirmed that Zhao and Ren had acted in a TV series directed by Jiang, and that Jiang had written the lyrics to a song that Zhao had recorded.
Jiang, who described Zhao as a family friend, told the newspaper that he did not know the two men’s motives in impersonating Buddhist monks, but speculated that it was connected to a past grievance.
He said that in 2008, Zhao claimed to have been cheated out of over 100,000 yuan by a Beijing record company. Zhao described the owner of the company as a devout Buddhist, and told Jiang that he was considering an “artistic” way to draw the attention of the media and Buddhist authorities to religious hypocrisy.
Zhao and Ren grabbed national attention earlier this month after being spotted around Beijing performing a series of un-monastic behaviors.
Netizens in China’s capital posted online photos and video of the two men in orange robes drinking beer while riding the subway and checking into a hotel with their arms around two women.
The two were arrested on April 7, after a group of monastic students called the police during a confrontation at Beijing’s Fayuan Temple.
A spokesman for the Buddhist Association of China denounced the two men’s behavior and promised more stringent regulations for identifying authentic monks.
“Their action seriously damages the reputation and damages the image of Buddhism,” said spokesman Pu Zheng, according to a report by the Global Times.
Jiang Xinxin told the New Beijing News that he had spoken with Beijing police, but that officers had refused to disclose the official reason for Zhao and Ren’s detention or the results of the police investigation.