BEIJING–The spiritual leader of a Chinese Buddhist sect is to be prosecuted for financial and sexual offenses, state media said Thursday, as Beijing intensifies its crackdown on what it calls dangerous cults.
Wu Zeheng, the leader of the Huazang Dharma group, will face a number of charges, including rape and using a cult “to sabotage law enforcement,” Xinhua News Agency said.
Xinhua — which calls the group Huazang Zongmen — also said several other “suspected cult members” will face prosecution following a year-long investigation.
Mainland China has previously cracked down harshly on religious groups, and submitted to its rubber stamp parliament last month a new criminal law which includes harsher punishments for those involved in “cults or superstitious activities.”
Supporters of Wu have said in overseas media that he is being persecuted, while the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent government commission, has called for his release.
Wu — who calls himself His Holiness Vairocana Xing Wu on the group’s website — seduced dozens of women by telling them sex with him could give them “supernatural power,” the Xinhua report said.
The 47-year-old from China’s southern Guangdong province was arrested last July with “a young woman in pajamas” inside a locked bedroom, it added.
The report cited one follower who said she had been repeatedly raped and had become pregnant three times, but was forced to have abortions.
The police investigation showed Wu had amassed an illegal fortune of more than 6.9 million yuan (US$1.1 million), according to Xinhua, which also said he would be prosecuted for “fraud, and production and sale of harmful food.”
He raised money by selling paintings with “holy power” and “blessed” stamps, as well as running a restaurant in Shenzhen, neighboring Hong Kong, where he claimed the food was cooked with “precious” ingredients.
Xinhua said prominent monks had denied any links with Wu, and that most of his writings turned out to be “plagiarisms or unlawful.”
Broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) screened a 22-minute investigation into Huazang Dharma Thursday morning, interviewing “victims” and showing Wu in prison garb being interrogated by police.
Beijing’s most notable crackdown on religious groups was directed against the Falungong spiritual movement, which was banned in the late 1990s.
More recently the outlawed “Quannengshen” — which can be translated as the Church of Almighty God — has been targeted.
A father and daughter who belonged to Quannengshen were executed in February, having been convicted of beating a woman to death at a McDonald’s restaurant, reportedly after she rebuffed their attempts to recruit her.
Four Marines were killed Thursday at a Chattanooga, Tenn., Navy training center, in what authorities called a possible “act of domestic terrorism” that consisted of two attacks carried out by a lone gunman at military facilities just seven miles apart, officials said.
The unidentified gunman shot up a recruiting center before driving to the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center and killing four Marines before he was shot, authorities said. Sources told Fox News police chased the gunman from the recruiting center to the Center, where the killings took place. The FBI and military police were investigating the attack, but authorities could not rule out the possibility of terrorism.
“We are treating this as an act of domestic terrorism,” said Bill Killian, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee.
The names of the Marines who were reportedly shot were not immediately released pending notification of their families. The Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center lies along a bend in the Tennessee River, northeast of downtown Chattanooga.
Despite Killian’s statement, an FBI Special Agent Ed Reinhold told reporters that it may have been a criminal act. The gunman was killed, but authorities did not comment on his identity, motivation or the circumstances of his death. Authorities said the gunman did not work at either military facility.
Reinhold said all the dead were killed at the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center Chattanooga. It sits between Amnicola Highway and a pathway that runs through Tennessee RiverPark, a popular park at a bend in the Tennessee River northeast of downtown Chattanooga. It’s in a light industrial area that includes a Coca-Cola bottling plant and Binswanger Glass.
The two entrances to the fenced facility have unmanned gates and concrete barriers that require approaching cars to slow down to drive around them.
Marilyn Hutcheson, who works at Binswanger Glass just across the street from the center on Amnicola Highway, said she heard a barrage of gunfire around 11 a.m.
A large-scale terror attack was most likely thwarted with the arrest of a 23-year-old supporter of the Islamic State from Massachusetts who bought pistols and rifles from a confidential FBI informant earlier this month.
Alexander Ciccolo, a convert to Islam, had planned an attack at a state university. The plan was centered around college dorms and cafeterias and included “executions of students, which would be broadcast live via the internet.”
A search of Ciccolo’s apartment revealed bomb-making equipment, including chemicals and a pressure cooker, “attack planning papers” and other papers relating to “jihad.”
Officials also found a number of semi-constructed “Molotov cocktails.” They reported Ciccolo had said at an earlier time that the fire from these devices, once exploded, was designed to stick to the victim’s skin making it difficult to put out the flames.
Ciccolo, who now goes by the name of Abu Ali al-Amriki, is the estranged son of Robert Ciccolo, a captain in the Boston’s police force who was a first responder in the bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013.
Capt. Ciccolo had reported his son a year ago to counter-terrorism officials after he saw he “was going off the deep end” and “spouting extremist jihadist sympathies.” The father and son had not had much contact over the last few years.
The FBI said the arrested son said he was “inspired” by the bombing at the Boston Marathon and its methodology. “Allahu Akbar!!! I got the pressure cooker today,” he reported to an undercover FBI operative.
An FBI affidavit also showed Ciccolo praised the recent terror attack in Tunisia in which 39 tourists were killed, saying, “Awesome. Awesome, you that ah, that brother in Tunisia was impressive.
Another post included a photo of a dead American soldier with the comment, “Thank you Islamic State. Now we won’t have to deal with these kafir [infidels] back in America.”
In a bizarre twist of allegiances, Ciccolo participated in an anti-nuclear “peace walk” in the summer of 2012 in Ontario, Canada. ABC news reported that Ciccolo walked with a Buddist named Jun Yasuda in the march.
Yasuda said it seemed that Ciccolo was “concerned about peace… and understood about non-violent protest. We walked together after Fukushima, and he realized that he had an open mind and that people were wonderful.”
In a statement posted on the Boston Police Department’s website, Ciccolo’s family said, “While we were saddened and disappointed to learn of our son’s intentions, we are grateful that authorities were able to prevent any loss of life or harm to others. At this time, we would ask that the public and the media recognize our grief and respect our desire for privacy.”
Ciccolo was quietly arrested on July 4 as part of a broad-based counter-terrorism operation by U.S. security officials that saw the arrest of more than 10 individuals with suspected connections to the Islamic State who may have been planning attacks on the national holiday.
After his arrest, Ciccolo attacked a nurse who was performing a routine medical screening on him. During the exam, Ciccolo grabbed a pen and stabbed the nurse in her forehead causing a bleeding incision.
His detention hearing is scheduled for July 14.
A Florida church concerned about the failure of one of its young female members to pay a monthly financial contribution to its operations has threatened to strip her from its roll if she doesn’t pay up and has offered her a grace period of 90 days to make nice if she is experiencing financial “hardship.”
The threat to “Candance Petterson” as the young woman is identified in a letter posted to Facebook, came from the more than century old Greater Mount Moriah Primitive Baptist Church in Tampa, Florida, according to church member Bonnie Maxwell who spoke with The Christian Post on Tuesday.
The young woman who posted the letter to her Facebook profile Pretty Peterson on Saturday said she was surprised that the church would insist that she owed them anything since no one even bothered to call her to find out how she was doing even though she had not been attending the church for a while.
“What Church does this … why would I want to go to a church that everybody talk about everybody. … Christ don’t have nothing to do with this paper you typed. … They said I owe a fee for not coming to church. … I just haven’t been back to that church. … If I’m such a member why no one called to check on me,” wrote Peterson.
The letter, from assistant administrator Ladreda Spencer and B.R. Fulton Jr., pastor the church, highlights a number of fees an adult member of the church needed to pay to be “in good standing and have the right to vote.” The contributions include a general minimum contribution of $50 monthly; a $15 assessment for Mount Moriah Day, and a $15 assessment for the church’s anniversary.
“In sending this letter, it is with much regret. We value you as a member of our congregation and your attendance in the worship services. You are currently delinquent in your financial support,” said the letter which then highlights what appears to be church rules noting that “anytime a member fails to contribute the minimum assessed amount for three or more months in the year [they] become a delinquent member.”
Then came the gentle threat: “In order to not be removed from the church roll, your attention to this matter [is] greatly appreciated.”
The young woman, who appears to be a recent high school graduate, was also reminded that high school graduates are also required to pay contributions to the church as adults unless they are in college.
“When a member graduates from high school, they are required to contribute as an adult unless they are [in] college. Once and individual graduates from college, or enter graduate school they are required to contribute [as an] adult. If you are still in college, not graduate school, please provide a copy of your last semester grades to the administration to retain your youth status,” the letter noted.
“If you have moved, joined another church, or are having financial hardship, please contact your ward leader, or pastor Fulton. If you were placed on hardship, this has been extended for 90 days. You should make every effort to contribute the amount fully required,” the letter ended.
The church did not respond to calls or email from CP Tuesday but Bonnie Maxwell, a church member in “good standing,” chided the young church member for posting the letter to Facebook in a social media post and defended the church.
“I am a member of Greater Mount Moriah P B Church. I love my church and my pastor. I know people have their opinions regarding the letter that was sent out to this young lady and put over social media. I don’t understand why so much negativity about paying a monthly assessment of $50 a month, that you already knew about. If you go to a club or a bar whatever you wish to call it every weekend, you are paying about $10 or maybe more to get in the door and then paying again for drinks,” she said.
“As Christians we are required to be obedient. The Bible states that you should give 10 percent of your earnings, it never stated it had to be money, that is what man came up with and most churches abide by it. Everyone is commenting, saying that if you don’t pay you will not be allowed in the church. “Not True.” The letter states that if you are 90 days delinquent, you will not be able to vote on important issues pertaining to the church. It also states that if you have a hardship to speak to your leader,” she continued.
“We are a good church that has been around for 120 plus years. I am sure if anyone attends a church, there are bylaws you are required to abide by. All this information is given during orientation. Find a place that you are comfortable with and not try to degrade our church and posting negative comments. No matter what is said ‘WE ARE STILL STANDING STRONG,'” she ended.