TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The New York Times this week gave a glimpse inside a Buddhist temple which has been converted into a bizarre Communist Chinese shrine, after a construction contractor evicted the temple's nuns.
The New York Times on Wednesday (Sept. 19) released a report after a visit to the temple, which Taiwan News had reported on in April. The report focused on Wei Ming-jen (魏明仁), a 60-year-old retired military officer and construction contractor who has evicted the four nuns who lived in the 100-year-old Biyun Temple (碧雲禪寺) in Chanhua County's Ershui Township, after duping them into accruing a large amount of debt they were allegedly unable to fully repay.
After seizing ownership, Wei has changed the name of the temple to the "Patriotic Education Base of Socialist National Thought in Taiwan Province of the People's Republic of China," covered it with the flags of China and the Communist Party, and stocked the interior with portraits of Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Xi Jinping.
(Wikimedia Commons image)
Wei's takeover of the temple started with an addition that the nuns requested him to construct. Wei charged the nuns a massive sum of US$3.2 million (NT$98 million) to construct the addition, which they claimed they repaid in full in the form of installments over several years, according to the New York Times.
However the report cited the nuns as saying that an elderly member of the order had been tricked by Wei into signing promissory notes for additional debt that the nuns did not owe him and that they ultimately were unable to repay. After a court ruled in favor of Wei and following a public auction, he took control of the temple and kicked out the nuns in 2012.
The nuns have since been forced to live in shipping containers next to the temple and they have plastered all the bills they claim to have paid to Wei on the wall that separates them from their former home. Villagers have scrounged some funds to help them build a tiny, makeshift temple in one of the containers, but attendance is said to be low.
Wei posing in front of temple. (Image from Wei Wing-jen's Facebook page)
A 70-year-old nun told the New York Times reporter, "We just want the temple back. It was built with the people’s money.”The nuns say that Wei has aligned himself with Communist China to attract funds from pro-unification supporters and to gain leverage in their ongoing property dispute over the temple.
Changhua County councilor Hsu Shu-wei (許書維) in April said that the structure is illegal and should already be slated for demolition, because the former temple is not in accordance with a national law governing the construction of large buildings on mountainsides (山坡地保育利用條例). Hsu says the county has delayed dealing with the structure because the local government does not have the funds. Previously, a representative from the Changhua Civil Affairs Department claimed the county was waiting for the lawsuit between Wei and the nuns to be resolved by the courts, before taking any action.
Local residents have expressed concerns that Wei may be acting as a proxy for the Chinese government. Many villagers have also expressed a willingness to donate money so that Changhua County will be able to quickly address what for many is an unwanted presence in the township.
(Image from Wei Wing-jen's Facebook page)
Google map showing Temple's location in Taiwan: