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Another bizarre cult raises concern


ReligionNewsBlog.com • Thursday May 1, 2003

AFP, May 2, 2003
http://www.smh.com.au/

Japanese police said yesterday they were ready to crack down on a bizarre “white-costume” cult which has stirred unease among local people by occupying a public road and shrouding the surrounding area with mysterious white screens.

Police started questioning white-clad members of the Pana Wave Laboratory cult who, since last Friday have been occupying a 200-metre stretch of a mountain road with a caravan of 15 white-shrouded cars and vans in Gifu, about 300 kilometres west of Tokyo.

The local authority on Wednesday issued an expulsion order to the cult, which claims the earth is in danger because of electromagnetic waves used with evil intent by communists, according to its website.

But the doomsday sect, whose membership is believed to top 1200, refused to move immediately, only saying the group may move this weekend.

“It is clear that local residents have trouble with their road occupation and their presence has brought fear to residents,” said a spokesman for the Gifu Police Department.

“We are going to strictly deal with the case by using every possible regulation,” the police spokesman said. Television footage showed police officers questioning the sect members and examining their vehicles on Thursday afternoon.

There were 250 police at the scene according to one channel, NTV.

This was the first major confrontation between a cult and local government in Japan since the Aum Supreme Truth, the cult responsible for the 1995 subway sarin nerve gas attack, illegally built a compound housing a chemical plant on the slopes of Mt Fuji.

Wearing surgical-style white robes, headgear and facemasks, the Pana Wave members have erected white fabric screens along the roadside, and wrapped nearby guardrails and tree trunks in white, claiming that white cloth can help them avoid being exposed to harmful electromagnetic waves.

All of their vans are also white and covered with numerous pieces of white paper printed with mysterious whirlpool pattern. Television footage showed the inside of the vehicles are also white with the steering wheels bandaged.

Other pictures showed cult members trying to fend off cameramen with large mirrors resembling reflective riot shields.

Hiroko Chino, the 69-year-old female guru who founded the sect in the 1970s, has moved from one place to another across the nation with her followers in the caravan for the past 10 years.

Over the last few days, Japan’s television networks have given extensive coverage to the cult and its perceived similarities to the Aum sect, whose founder, Shoko Asahara, has been on trial for seven years for the subway attack and other crimes involving the deaths of 27 people.

Prosecutors demanded the death sentence for the nearly blind Asahara last month.

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