Taoist priest faulted for self-promotion

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The State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) has launched an investigation into accusations against Taoist priest Li Yi, a renowned "health specialist".

 Li Yi [File photo]

The Beijing News on Thursday reported that the administration confirmed it had asked for information about 40-year-old Li from the local religious department.

Wang Zuo'an, head of SARA, said on Wednesday that religious personnel should endeavor to instill self-discipline and a sense of social responsibility in others, instead of seeking fame and fortune.

An official of the ethnics and religious affairs bureau in Beibei district, Chongqing, confirmed that Li had fabricated several miracles he claimed to have performed, including holding his breath underwater for two hours.

The official also related that the police said an accusation of rape against Li was unfounded.

Li, who is reported to have 30,000 followers, oversees the Shaolong Taoist Temple in Chongqing, where expensive health and meditation programs are available.

One of Li's followers reported him to the Chongqing ethnics and religious affairs department last Saturday, accusing him of raping and having affairs with his female disciples and forging his academic credentials.

Media reports disclosed that Li only achieved a junior middle school certificate and used to make his living working in a circus.

A spokesman from the Chinese Taoist Association, surnamed Yin, revealed that Li became a Taoist priest in 2000 after he was apprenticed to the deceased Taoist master Chen Liansheng, former vice-president of the Chinese Taoist Association.

Yin confirmed that Li currently serves as vice-president of the association, but refused to comment further.

Doubts have been cast over the expensive health classes Li holds at his temple and it has been suggested that he conned the public with trickery to promote himself, according to media reports.

When asked to comment on the situation, business leaders and celebrities who are reported to be among Li's followers demanded to stay out of the maelstrom.

Ma Yun, president of Alibaba.com, and Yang Jinlin, a host on the Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV station, both stated they were not disciples of Li.

Ma Jia, an agent for Chinese singer Faye Wong and her husband, actor Li Yapeng, said the couple is devout Buddhists but not followers of Li.

Yi Shenghua, a lawyer from Beijing Yingke law firm, said that if it is proven that Li monetarily benefited from fabricating his background and conning the public, then he would be charged with false pretenses.


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