Communist Chinese shrine in western Taiwan bites the dust

Buddhist temple converted into Communist Chinese shrine being demolished today in Taiwan's Changhua County

Communist Chinese shrine being demolished.

Communist Chinese shrine being demolished. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The controversial former Buddhist temple which was converted into a Communist Chinese shrine by the conniving construction contractor who duped the temple's nuns in to taking on unpayable debts, is being torn down by a Changhua County demolition crew today.

A demolition crew today is tearing down 5,600 square meters of structures built around the 100-year-old former Biyun Chan Temple (碧雲禪寺) in Changhua’s Ershui (二水) Township because they were illegally constructed and had been converted into a Communist Chinese shrine by Wei Ming-jen (魏明仁). At 10 a.m. this morning, CNA reports that 14 heavy-duty vehicles arrived at the scene to begin dismantling the front main hall and the left and right compartments of the rear hall, all of which had been built illegally by Wei.

Wei, a 60-year-old retired military officer and construction contractor, evicted the four nuns who lived in the temple after duping them into accruing a large amount of debt they were allegedly unable to fully repay. After seizing ownership, Wei 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.

Work crew tearing down illegally built structures. (CNA image)

Though local media had covered the story in April, a New York Times report on the Communist Chinese shrine released last week seemed to be the final straw for Changhua County Magistrate Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷), who on Sept. 21 announced that the structure brought "shame to Taiwan," and that he was ordering that power and electricity be cut to the illegal structure, before it was to be torn down on Sept. 26. In anticipation of the demolition, Wei, along with members of the Chinese Patriot Association, hastily lowered the Communist Chinese flags and removed portraits of Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Xi Jinping from the structure.

Changhua County Deputy Magistrate Lin Ming-yu (林明裕), who was on the scene to inspect the demolition, told CNA that crews had been dispatched to demolish illegal structures on the temple grounds covering 5,600 meters, including the main hall and the left and right compartments of the rear hall. He said that to ensure the safety of personnel and machines, crews are working to complete the demolition work is as soon as possible, which the county government estimates will take about a week.

Wei Ming-jen. (CNA image)

On Sept. 21, when workers were dispatched by the county magistrate to cut off the power and water from the shrine, Wei Ming-jen tried to block them and punched one of the county employees in the face. He was arrested for assaulting the workers and after being questioned by prosecutors, he was released on NT$100,000 bail, reported CNA.

In response to the demolition of the illegal additions, Master Faming (法明師) from the old temple told CNA, "It's very sad, hopefully one day, everyone can help rebuild Biyun Temple."

Heavy equipment deployed to the scene to raze the illegal structure. (CNA 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 report.

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.

Buddhist nun from the old temple looking on at demolition with concern. (CNA image)

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.

Flag raising ceremony at Communist shrine. (Image from Wei Ming-ren's FB page)

Character for "tear down" over photo from Wei Ming-ren's FB page

Appearance of shrine after first day of demolition work completed. (CNA image)