1st Health Qigong Wellness Forum kicks off in NY
Controversial Chinese qigong master entangled in property dispute
At this moment, he could have been seated leisurely in his mansion or driving his Hummer SUV, talking cheerfully with visiting admirers from political, business or showbiz circles. Instead, "exhausted" and "ill," he has shut himself away in Hong Kong, seeking to escape potential disturbances and investigations.
But he seems to have failed to make these troubles disappear in spite of possessing self-proclaimed spiritual powers, which he boasts can cure incurable diseases and even kill a person at long distance.
Wang Lin, 61, a millionaire who made his fortune out of self-proclaimed qigong mastery, has recently met with public outrage and scrutiny surrounding his "supernatural power," alongside accusations of swindling, illegal medical practice, illegal gun ownership and bribery.
The case has brought pseudo-masters who claim to have special abilities back into the spotlight.
Following an anti-superstition campaign in the late 1990s and early 2000s, most "qigong" sects, including those which claimed millions of followers, were declared illegal and disbanded, while their masters were detained or fled overseas.
Before Wang Lin was exposed to have been living an even more elevated, though "low-key," life in Luxi county, Jiangxi Province, many people may have thought the supernatural qigong practice had almost died out. Now they realized the smarter con artists have only sharpened their strategies and survived.
Nevertheless, experts say it is indisputable that the survival space for these fake masters is shrinking.
Differing from previous "masters" who expanded membership in a top-down fashion among the masses, the ones today like Wang Lin prefer to exclusively target the elite.
According to the Beijing News, in Wang Lin's five-story villa in Luxi, halls on two floors are devoted to pictures of Wang with high-level officials, leading film stars and business gurus.
Similarly, Taoist priest Li Yi, a self-proclaimed "health-preservation master," also had many influential and noted devotees, such as Alibaba's founder Ma Yun and pop singer Faye Wong.
Li, then the deputy head of the Chinese Taoist Association who faked a performance where he held his breath for two hours and 22 minutes underwater, began fading away from the public eye since July 2010, when his tricks were disclosed and he was accused of raping and having affairs with his female disciples.
Despite gaining popularity in elite circles, Wang and Li were barely known to the general public and even to most qigong practitioners.
"I had never heard of Wang or Li until the intense media coverage. Their self-claimed abilities are too shocking," commented Chen Xinmei, a teacher of qigong at Sias International University in Zhengzhou, Henan Province.
According to online videos and Wang's biography, through spiritual powers, he could make a snake appear from an empty container, help restore a snake's head that had been cut off and remove kidney stones from a patient.
In a statement issued on July 29, the China Emei Kung Fu Research Association also denied any association with Wang, who claimed to have been apprenticed at Emei Mountain, a renowned Buddhist and Taoist sanctuary.
"Earning money and fame under the banner of qigong is sad. It will help destroy people's belief in qigong," Chen told the Global Times.