A 62-year-old man from Greater Taichung on Saturday accused Wang Chao-hung (王超弘) — also known as “Teacher Wang,” who had predicted that a “super earthquake” would devastate Taiwan on May 11, 2011 — of conning him into stocking up on emergency resources for the false doomsday.
In April 2011, Wang wrote on his blog that, based on his studies of the Chinese classic I Ching (易經), also known as the Book of Changes, a magnitude 14 earthquake would hit Taiwan on May 11 of that year at 10:42.37am.
Wang’s doomsday prediction had attracted a number of believers, who subsequently hoarded resources and purchased or rented shelters converted from cargo containers in Puli Township (埔里), Nantou County, to serve as their safe houses if disaster struck.
After his prediction of an apocalypse proved to be a false alarm, Wang was fined NT$40,000 (US$1,375) by a Nantou court in June 2011 for violating the Social Order Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法).
The Central Weather Bureau at the time had also sent Wang an official warning that his prediction could be in contravention of the Meteorological Act (氣象法).
The act states that individuals and organizations can be fined between NT$200,000 and NT$1 million for issuing weather forecasts or warnings of hazardous meteorological and seismological phenomena without the bureau’s permission. The bureau later decided not to fine Wang, on the grounds that he had stopped making further comments on the supposed earthquake.
The complainant, surnamed Sun (孫), said on Saturday that he was fooled by Wang’s actions into renting a “cargo shelter” for his family and spending more than NT$140,000 on rice and coal.
Sun, who made the accusations at Puli’s Ailan police station, said Wang had turned down his repeated requests for a refund of the money he had spent on goods primarily meant for the doomsday that Wang so confidently guaranteed would happen.
“With the Lunar New Year holiday approaching, my life is getting harder and harder, which is why I decided to bring fraud charges against Wang to get my hard-earned money back,” Sun said.
Sun added that he did not rule out teaming up with other people who also fell victim to Wang’s false prophecy to ask for justice.
In response to Sun’s accusations, Wang said that he had bought supplies for Sun at Sun’s request.
“When he [Sun] asked me to buy those products for him, the price of rice was NT$23 per kilogram, which increased to NT$26 a kilogram by the time I bought it. I even paid the difference with my own money,” Wang said.
Wang said that the relationship between him and Sun turned sour after the latter refused to pay him back the money.
“I believe the judicial system will clear my name,” Wang said.