A follower of a Chinese religious leader who has reportedly been persecuted for more than a decade and recently incriminated by the Chinese government for undertaking “illegal acts of goodwill” has come to Taiwan seeking assistance and to raise awareness.
The repression of religious practitioners in China seems to be worsening since Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) took office, according to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇), who held a press conference yesterday with a member of the Hua Zang Dharma Buddhist religious group who was detained and interrogated, but managed to escape Chinese officials.
The religious traditions of Muslims in Xinjiang have been restricted, Christian crosses and churches in Zhejiang Province were demolished and last month, Chinese Buddhist master Shi Guoshi (釋果實) came to Taiwan accusing Beijing of repressing religious freedom and protesting against her master’s detention on a charge of “inciting the subversion of state power.”
Hua Zang Dharma founder Wu Zeheng (吳澤恆) has proposed “institutional reform” to the Beijing government as early as 1998, said the member, surnamed Lin (林).
Wu again in 1999 advocated “universal philosophy” when the country “was facing a crisis of faith,” a move that resulted in his arrest and an 11-year prison term.
The religious leader was under surveillance after he got out of prison in 2010, but continued to call on his followers to perform good deeds everyday. His calls had been repressed and alleged to be “illegal acts of goodwill,” Lin said.
Taiwan Association for China Human Rights chairman Yang Hsien-hung (楊憲宏) said that it was very “creative” for the Chinese government to come up with this charge in a remark seen as sarcastic.
Wu was arrested at the end of last month, along with 80 followers who were questioned, Lin said.
“Two weeks after the arrest, the state-controlled media, including overseas outlets, started labeling the group as ‘an evil cult’ that swindles money and lures women,” Lin said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Apollo Chen (陳學聖) was also present at the press conference to show his support.
“I’m also a Buddhist, but I’m not here only because of that,” he said. “Human rights is universal and the key issue for future possible advancement in cross-strait relations.”