Sep 27, 2019

Police raid frees 19 from dangerous religious cult

One official said the rescued members believed they had ‘demons,’ which had to be removed by beatings, resulting in bruises covering their bodies

By Hsu Kuo-chen and William Hetherington
Taipei Times
September 26, 2019

Police last month raided the premises of a religious cult in Taichung, where members were allegedly severely beaten and held against their will, officials said yesterday.

The Chunghwa Daily Good Deed Association (中華日行一善學會) allegedly lured people into leaving their homes to live in a commune in the mountains, where it promised to “purify their spirits,” police told a news conference.

Members were closely monitored and encouraged to report each others’ “offenses,” such as saying that they wanted to leave, police said, adding that those who complained were beaten, with victims ranging from two to 80 years old.

A 61-year-old woman surnamed Lin (林), allegedly the founder of the cult, was detained along with five other suspects in the raid, they said.

A 20-year-old Taichung woman was found dead in China’s Guangxi Province after telling her family that she wanted to go there for religious reasons, police said, adding that investigators found that she had been a member of the cult and was allegedly beaten to death by other members.

After learning of the cult’s possible involvement in the woman’s death, Prosecutor Lin Yi-cheng (林依成) led a team from the Criminal Investigation Bureau’s central Taiwan division on the raid, they said.

Lin had registered the cult as a legal association in 2009, and established chapters in Nantou County and Taichung, police said, adding that she reportedly planned to expand into China, which was the purpose of the trip she took to Guangxi with the woman who died.

Investigators found that Lin — who referred to herself as the “living Buddha,” the “Holy Mother” or “the Mother” — had recruited about 100 people into the cult since 2009, many of whom were family members of existing members, they said.
Once someone joined the cult, their actions were restricted and it was difficult for them to leave, police said, adding that members were told to maintain a group mentality and not express individual opinions.

Members were encouraged to report to Lin any fellow members found not walking or eating “properly,” complaining of wanting to return home, or any other act considered an “offense” by Lin’s rules, they said.

When authorities arrived at the premises, they found it surrounded by a tall barbed-wired fence and a locked gate, police said.

After breaking through the gate they rescued 19 members who had been detained by Lin and confiscated several items, including computers, cult doctrine materials, cash, uniforms and steel rods that were allegedly used to beat members, they said.

Among the evidence were member rules prohibiting them from insulting Buddha, pretending to be the cult master and taking an extra bowl of rice during meals, among other acts, said Lai Ying-men (賴英門), captain of the 5th Investigation Corps at the bureau’s Central Taiwan Office.

The 19 rescued members believed that Lin had been trying to help them, he said.

They also believed that they had “demons inside of them,” which had to be removed by being beaten, Lai said, adding that several members, including a two-year-old boy, had bruises covering their entire bodies.
Lin is to be charged with breaching the Organized Crime Prevention Act (組織犯罪防治條例), as well as offenses for bodily harm and bodily injury leading to death, he said.

Lin has been detained without visitation rights, Lai said, adding that other victims of the cult have been asked to come forward and testify

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