Civic protests and boycotts of products and services offered by Ting Hsin International Group (頂新集團) and its subsidiaries have led to a war of words between Buddhist Master Shih Chao-hwei (釋昭慧) and netizens.
The controversy stemmed from an online campaign initiated by netizen Chang Jen-chi (張仁吉), who launched a Facebook page to “shut down Ting Hsin” and posted an open letter to the firm’s employees, Ruentex Group chairman Samuel Yin (尹衍樑) and Dharma Master Cheng Yen (證嚴法師).
Chang said on Sunday that Ting Hsin has been involved in oil scandals three times within a single year for failing to ensure food safety and should not be forgiven a third time, or it would show that “Taiwanese are morons.”
Chang wrote that he felt “chilled” at the cold response Cheng Yen had displayed to the incident and that even though she is a Buddhist nun, she “should not choose for Taiwanese to suffer over her choice to forgive Wei Ying-chun (魏應充).”
Wei, a senior Ting Hsin International Group executive, was detained on Friday on suspicion that he was aware of the group’s use of animal feed-grade oil in cooking oil products.
Cheng Yen is the founder of the nation’s largest charity organization, the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, of which Wei is a long-time member.
In the letter, Chang also addressed Yin, who accepted an invitation by Ting Hsin to establish a food safety committee.
“If you are going to support Ting Hsin and the Wei family, we will boycott you too,” Chang wrote.
Shih, who is dean of the social science department at Hsuan Chuang University in Hsinchu, said yesterday there are many netizens who are “seeking to increase the chaos” by involving Tzu Chi in the Ting Hsin scandal, adding that the netizens’ actions are similar to the Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution under then-Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) in 1966.
Her remarks referred to comments by some netizens who called nuns and monks “agents of monstrosities” over the oil scandal, a description she said was reminiscent of tactics the Red Guards used in China.
“They are disrupting peace in society and should be investigated by the courts,” Shih said, adding that the netizens’ work was a “crime perpetrated against Tzu Chi by religious and corporate groups.”
“Master Cheng Yen treats everyone the same as she considers no one on Earth is unworthy of her forgiveness, trust and love,” Shih said, adding that there was no reason Chang should ask Cheng Yen to betray her beliefs.
The lack of logic in Chang’s statement — that Cheng Yen’s forgiveness of Wei amounts to choosing that Taiwanese will suffer — is astounding, Shih said, adding that she was surprised at how the public has been inflamed by the “emotionally provocative commentary.”
Shih said Chang and his group are not only intent on shutting Ting Hsin down, but also seek to make the public turn against Buddhism and the foundation.
Separately yesterday, author Hsu Chang-te (許常德) weighed in on the controversy, saying it was evident that Wei was the “rotten apple” that threatens to spoil the bunch.
Hsu said he is puzzled by Cheng Yen’s silence amid the scandal.
“I am equally puzzled at Master Cheng Yen’s inability to sympathize with people’s anger on the matter concerning Ting Hsin,” Hsu said.
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