Kaohsiung mayor believes in fraudulent cult leader

The China Post (Taiwan), Dec. 11, 2002

Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh still believes in a religious cult leader who has been charged with defrauding followers by claiming to have supernatural powers, the mayor’s wife told a court yesterday.

Yu Fang-chi, said she, her son and the mayor believe Sung Chi-li does possess supernatural powers, and claimed that the fraud charges against the cult leader were unfounded.

Sung and Yu were among 17 defendants being tried by the Taiwan High Court on fraud charges.

The scandal broke out in 1996, almost hurting Hsieh’s political career when he was found to be one of the 4,000 to 5,000 members of the Sung cult.

Melody Chu Mei-fong, the politician now disgraced for her part in a sex video scandal, was the first to uncover the scam. A Taipei City councilor at the time, Chu accused Sung of conning his disciples out of millions of NT dollars.

Sung would sell his followers high-priced pictures of him demonstrating his supernatural powers, and by worshipping the pictures, the followers could become “Buddha,” Chu said.

One of Sung’s most controversial claims involved his “double.” Sung was said to be able to appear in one place, with his double showing up simultaneously at another.

Prosecutors, investigating Chu’s allegations, subsequently determined that the cult was defrauding people and indicted the leader, Yu and several others.

“How can I not believe in him?” Yu, who had edited books on Sung’s supernatural powers, told the high court. “I’ve seen with my own eyes (Sung’s double).”

Hsieh has never publicly recanted his belief in Sung, although he has never mounted an open defense of the cult leader like his wife did in court.

In his 1998 mayoral campaign, Hsieh faced ridicule and criticism for his links to the cult leader.

The high court trial reopened a few days after his re-election victory.

Yu was not the only one who still believed in Sung. When the cult leader appeared in court, he was accompanied by about 100 flower-holding worshippers.

After Sung entered the courtroom, the followers placed their flowers along the hallway outside as if they were performing a religious rite, eyewitnesses said.

Yu said the Sung case was a matter of faith, not of law.

But a former chief disciple of Sung’s, Chang Nai-jen, called the cult leader “a cheat.”

“Don’t be fooled by Sung Chi-li anymore,” Chang said during the trial.

Police officers who were in charge of the case said Sung confessed to them that he did not have any supernatural powers.

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