TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A pro-Beijing political party in Taiwan is reportedly exerting a strong influence on dozens of temples across the island, sparking fears that religious communities are being utilized to promote Beijing’s political agenda and facilitate money laundering from China.
According to a report by Mirror Media, the founder and chairman of the Chinese Unification Promotion Party (CUPP), Chang An-lo (張安樂), has openly admitted that he maintains good relations with the management of about 30 temples across Taiwan, including those frequented by visitors from different parts of the island and overseas tourists.
The chairman, who has called China his “god,” said some of these temples’ senior staff have joined the party, occasionally organizing events to promote cross-strait exchanges.
Several temples were pointed out by Chang, including the Longqi Wenheng Temple in Tainan, Sheng Wu Temple in Taichung, Xingang Fengtian Temple in Chiayi, and Beigang Chaotian Temple in Yunlin. The chairman says members of the temples often invite him to temple fairs and ask him for assistance with events involving China.
Established in 2004 by the former gang leader, the CUPP aims to push for the “peaceful unification of Taiwan with China.” In recent years, the party has become entangled in a series of controversies, most notably over its dramatic and sometimes violent actions to counter student demonstrations that opposed closer ties with China.
Even though several reports have suggested a link between the CUPP and the Chinese government, Chang maintains that he has never received funding from Beijing, claiming the party operates on its own accord. Before returning to Taiwan and becoming a staunch advocate for Beijing’s “one country, two systems” formula for Taiwan in 2013, Chang had done business in China for more than a decade.
The Mirror Media report also hints at the possibility of the CUPP and other pro-Beijing groups in Taiwan using temples to conduct China-based money laundering schemes. The current laws impose relatively loose restrictions on religious institutes and their activities; hence there is a lack of transparency in terms of their cash flows.