Cult founder arrested over starvation death

Cult founder arrested over starvation death

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Changhua County prosecutors yesterday arrested Chen Chiau-ming (陳巧明), founder of the "Ri Yue Ming Gong" (日月明功) religious group, over allegations she was involved in the death by starvation of a 17-year-old high school student in June.

Changhua prosecutors previously planned to transport Chen along with Hsu Ai-jen (許愛珍), a cadre member of the group, and two other suspects, surnamed Lin and Liu, back to the Taichung branch of the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) for interrogation. At the last minute, however, prosecutors decided to change the location of the interrogation to Chen's residence, which also functions as the headquarters of Ri Yue Ming Gong.

A Changhua prosecutor explained that after discovering a large number of reporters were waiting outside the CIB's office in Taichung, prosecutors decided to avoid the media by changing the location of the interrogation.

The Changhua District Prosecutors Office on Wednesday said that according to autopsy results, no traces of drugs were found in the body of the victim, surnamed Chan, who was allegedly locked up for 18 days with no food inside Chen's residence, with the cause of death determined as severe malnutrition.

Prosecutors said Chan's mother, surnamed Huang, assumed her son was abusing drugs and took her son to Ri Yue Ming Gong for rehabilitation. Huang admitted that several members of Ri Yue Ming Gong helped to tie up her son, prosecutors said.

MOI Responds

Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) yesterday said that as far as he knows, Ri Yue Ming Gong is not registered with the government, noting that in order to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) will attempt to root other unregistered religious groups on the island.

Lee went on to say that given the absence of any specific law regulating unregistered religious groups, even if the MOI were to discover similar groups, the government could only intervene if the groups were proven to have committed human rights violations. The MOI will discuss how to regulate unregistered religious groups in Taiwan in the future.

Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) during a press event said that the recent tragedy involving the teenage boy and the "rather unscrupulous" group has been reported nationwide over the past few days, noting that to see so much negative news in Taiwan is "very painful" for everyone.

Jiang said many people are doing charitable works in Taiwan, yet their deeds are not often reported by local media. The premier stressed that he believes Taiwan is not just about tragedies and negative news.

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