BEIJING, AP

A Chinese Buddhist leader was detained and some of his American followers dragged away when they tried to hold a ceremony at a temple in northern China that they had paid to renovate, according to members of the group.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Thursday protested to China over the “mistreatment of American citizens” and sought assurances that the spiritual leader, Yu Tianjian, would be treated fairly.

The Buddhist Foundation of America, based in Los Angeles, believes Yu was arrested for “inciting superstition,” said Dan Kendall, a member of the group.

Yu lived in the United States for five years and now resides in Beijing, though he also leads the Dari Rulai Temple in Los Angeles, Kendall said. According to the U.S. Embassy, Yu’s followers say he holds permanent U.S. residency.

“We have no details about his whereabouts or his condition,” a U.S. Embassy spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity. “We call on the Chinese authorities to ensure that Mr. Yu’s rights to due process are respected.”

Kendall said he and six other Americans gathered last week with Yu at the 800-year-old Dari Rulai Xingyuan Temple in the Inner Mongolia region to prepare for its rededication following a year of renovation work. The group had raised US$3 million (euro 2.4 million) for the renovations and to construct new buildings at the site, he said.

But local authorities “physically dragged us out,” and took away personal belongings including Buddhist statues and artifacts, Kendall said.