TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Nineteen people were rescued from a Chinese cult, while its leader and four other followers were arrested in late August, central Taiwan, after a young Taiwanese was allegedly tortured to death by cult members in China.
The religious cult, China Baiyang Sigui Lingbao Holy Path (中華白陽四貴靈寶聖道會), was founded in China by a 61-year-old woman claiming to be a living Buddha. Surnamed Lin (林), she was busted in a remote mountainous area of Nantou by Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) officers, Taichung and Nantou police.
The raid was the culmination of several months of investigation begun by the CIB earlier this year. This followed the suspicious death of a young female member of the cult, after visiting the group’s compound in China.
In March, the 20-year-old Taiwanese woman told her family she would be traveling to Nanning, Guangxi Province, to study religious teachings. She died in mysterious circumstances and her parents suspected she had been tortured to death by cult members.
Mallet and rods found at the scene. (CIB photo)
Her parents reported the case to the Taichung District Prosecutor's Office, which in turn notified the CIB and joined up with Taichung and Nantou police to carry out an investigation. Police determined the Holy Path cult was founded by Lin, who claimed to be a living Buddha and had been recruiting followers since 2009.
Lin promised to "purify the soul" in order to entice new members. She also encouraged converts to introduce family members, and the cult reportedly grew to 100 members, aged from two to 80 years old, reported Liberty Times.
It was allegedly very difficult to leave the cult and individual thought was repressed. Those who attempted to leave would be held in captivity and beaten.
Badly bruised back of victim. (CIB photo)
Members would monitor and report on each other. Whenever a member failed to follow cult rules, especially expressing a wish to leave, leaders would violently beat them.
Other violations that were punished included "ignoring the gods" and "swearing in the name of the sage," reported UDN. In addition to beatings, punishments meted out included not being allowed to bathe or eat, and binding the hands and feet.
According to the police, dozens of cult members were beaten and injured under Lin's watch. A two-year-old girl was thrown around and beaten by followers with quilts and cushions; while injuries to adult members included severe bruising on the back, thighs and buttocks, according to UDN.
Cult branches opened up in Taiwan’s Taichung and Nantou counties. The 20-year-old woman who died was supposed to have been working with Lin on opening a new branch for the cult before she died, reported Liberty Times.
Police suspected that at least five families were held captive and being tortured by the group. In late August, police trekked into a remote area of Nantou where they found the cult's compound tightly sealed and locked with metal doors and chain-link fences.
After special agents scaled the fences, they ran into the two-story compound and broke down the door. Once inside, agents found 19 members and arrested Lin and four other leaders, reported Liberty Times.
At the scene, officers found mallets, rods, sticks, cult propaganda, hard disks, computers, uniforms, books, cash, and other items. The 19 adherents were reported as saying they still believed Lin would help them exorcise demons and achieve a pure soul.
The cult members followed precepts such as, “Ignore the Buddha's own problems," "Rice bowls may not be refilled," and "Even if you are a master, you cannot take advantage of others."
Thigh of badly beaten cult member. (CIB photo)