The Sun (Malaysia)

Cult leader gets life for fraud, rape and harmful food


BEIJING: The leader of a sect in China has been sentenced to life in prison for fraud, rape and “harmful food preparatio­n”, state media reported on Sunday.

Huazang Dharma leader Wu Zeheng was also fined 7.15 million yuan (RM5 million) for amassing more than 6.7 million yuan in ill-gotten gains, a south China court ruled last week, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Three of Wu’s followers received sentences of up to four years for fraud and perverting the course of justice at the intermedia­te people’s court in Zhuhai, Guangdong province. Wu denies all charges and will appeal. Supporters say Wu is being persecuted and the US Commission on Internatio­nal Religious Freedom has called for his release.

In an April Facebook posting by the Huazang Centre attributed to Wu’s lawyer Lin Qilei, he criticised improper prosecutor­ial procedure and police harassment following a high-profile raid on the group’s premises last year.

Police arrested Wu at his apartment in Zhuhai where they found luxury watches, jewellery, cigarettes, liquor and a young woman in pyjamas, Xinhua said.

In a July report, state broadcaste­r China Central Television interviewe­d alleged victims who claimed Wu forced them to have sex with him.

One follower reportedly told police she had been repeatedly raped and became pregnant three times, but was forced to have abortions.

Wu told dozens of women including minors that sex with him granted them “supernatur­al power”, Xinhua said.

Wu also ran a restaurant in Shenzhen, where the food was promoted as containing secret ingredient­s that were in fact toxic contaminan­ts and drugs, the report said.

Born in Guangdong province in 1967, Wu founded the group in early 1990s claiming to be the successor of eminent monks, Xinhua said. Previous state media reports this year indicated Wu’s age as 47.

Wu attracted more than 1,000 adherents by claiming he was the reincarnat­ion of Buddha and creating a doctrine called Cultivatio­n of Huazang, People’s Daily reported in July.

Wu promised his followers the ability to ward off sickness and ill fortune through charity and life science, Xinhua said. – dpa

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia