China alerts citizens against Indian spiritual courses, ‘cults’
China has warned its citizens to stay alert about spiritual courses offered by Indian religious schools, warning that some of them are mired in “sexual assault” cases and urged its citizens to stay off “suspected religious cults”.
The alert was issued by the ministry of public security (MPS), China’s police, after a Taiwanese actress promoted a spiritual course offered by a south India-based organisation. It triggered a debate across the country’s social media whether the celebrity was actually promoting a “religious cult”.
“Yi Nengjing, or Annie Yi, an actress from the island of Taiwan, posted on Sina Weibo on Monday promoting lessons of Amma and Bhagavan, creators of the Oneness University based in Chittoor, India,” the tabloid, Global Times said in a report.
Following the “heated discussions” on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, the MPS and the China Anti-Cult Association (CACA) “forwarded the post and warned the public that some spiritual schools are mired in sexual assault cases”.
The actress subsequently deleted her post.
“The CACA referred to a case of a so-called Indian religious master named Singh who was reportedly arrested for imprisoning and raping nearly 200 female believers in December 2017,” the report added.
The report was possibly referring to the case of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who is serving a 20-year sentence for raping two of his woman followers.
Quoting anonymous experts, the report said the teachings and courses offered by the south Indian organisation fell within the definition of “cult”.
“The Beijing-based expert also noted that its courses are a mix of Buddhism and Christianity, which is similar to the doctrine of the South Korean Unification Church, which the State Council, China’s cabinet, considers a cult,” it said.
The Supreme People’s Court of China defines a cult as an illegal organisation that uses religion or ‘qigong’, a kind of healing practice that involves breathing exercises, as a means to deceive and ultimately control its members.
“Cult leaders whose activities result in especially serious consequences, such as the death of three or more people, can be fined and imprisoned for at least seven years,” the SixthTone website said in a report.
“Chinese authorities have long been wary of religious sects. The 19th-century Taiping Rebellion, a violent uprising led by a man claiming to be the younger brother of Jesus, lasted for 14 years and resulted in the deaths of over 20 million people,” the Foreign Policy magazine website said in an earlier report.
In 2017, according to the official news agency Xinhua, China opened a website named China Anti-Cult Network, aiming to promote the preventative measures and policies that China has for combatting cults, offer an interpretation of the anti-cult law and related information.
“The website also has a section where the public can report criminal offences related to cults. It provides psychological guidance for the victims of cults and their families, and assistance in the search for missing relatives. An online pledge called ‘Say No to Cults’ calls for the public to sign their names to show they oppose and resist cults,” the report added.