All seems quiet now at the home surrounded by a three-metre hedge in an expensive neighbourhood of South Surrey in metro Vancouver.
But on June 17, the C$3 million (S$3.1 million) mansion was a hive of activity.
Police cruisers were parked in the driveway alongside two Maseratis. Yellow caution tape blocked the entrances as officers came and went.
At 5.30am that day, 41-year-old Chinese immigrant Bo Fan had been dropped off outside the nearby Peace Arch Hospital.
She was gravely injured – police have not described exactly how – and she died a few hours later.
The investigation into the mysterious murder is now casting a spotlight on a Chinese-origin spiritual group called Create Abundance – also known as Golden Touch – that police say employed Fan. But they do not link the organisation and Fan’s killing.
“She worked as an employee; she wasn’t a client … we’re confident saying that,” Sergeant Frank Jang of Vancouver’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) said on Tuesday, confirming details first reported by CTV News and The Breaker website.
The group, which primarily targeted women, has been accused in Chinese state media of being a moneymaking fraud, based around quasi-religious self-improvement courses that promised wealth, happiness and miracles.
“We’re homicide investigators,” said Jang, who said police were aware of such claims, but emphasised that there was nothing to suggest Create Abundance was involved in the killing.
“It could have been someone she knew briefly, or an acquaintance … perhaps someone she didn’t even know through Create Abundance.”
The group has denied the claims about its methods, which have not been tested or proven in court.
China may have soured on Create Abundance, but public documents and the group’s own promotional material show how it took a foothold in Vancouver culminating in a series of large-scale recruitment events in the west Canadian city in 2016.
Two people linked to the group set up companies in British Columbia and the Bahamas and purchased multimillion-dollar Vancouver-area properties, including a luxurious four-hectare estate with two swimming pools, a pond and a waterfall.
The group said hundreds of its students travelled to Vancouver to spread the word of Create Abundance to the local Chinese community. A Vancouver publisher translated its founder’s book of teachings and printed 30,000 copies.
One Vancouver event in 2016 involved a ceremony attended by a federal parliamentarian, a local city councillor, and Create Abundance members dressed in ball gowns.
Enlightenment did not come cheap. Although initial seminars were free, attendees were urged to sign up for more classes costing US$10,000 (S$14,000), according to both the group’s Canadian website and the account of a woman who claimed she attended the free sessions at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel.
The third level of instruction cost US$500,000, both she and the Create Abundance website said. The price schedule and the rest of the site have since gone offline but are still available in archived versions.
“Today there was a family of four, forty thousand dollars, the whole family signed up,” said the woman calling herself “Helen”, on the iask Chinese-language forum on April 10, 2016, the day of a Create Abundance seminar.
“There were also seven or eight women who filled out the form and swiped [their credit cards] on the spot.”
Also in Vancouver at the same event, Zhang Xinyue, the so-called “spiritual master of creation” who founded Create Abundance in China about 20 years ago.
The Rich Surrey Club
Before being delivered to Peace Arch Hospital, Bo Fan was last seen around 168 Street and 27 Avenue in South Surrey on June 16. IHIT said she lived in the area but did not give an exact address.
However, the address attended by police on the day she died is repeatedly listed in Create Abundance promotional material, described as the home of its “Rich Surrey Club”.
IHIT’s Sergeant Jang said at a press conference on June 24 that investigators were not directly connecting Create Abundance to Fan’s killing. “But she was someone associated with this organisation,” said Jang.
He displayed Create Abundance’s logo and appealed to anyone who may have known Fan, particularly through the organisation, to contact police.
Land titles show the 5,500 sq ft South Surrey home is owned by a businessman surnamed Guo who bought the house in 2014.
A person with the same full name is identified in the Offshore Leaks database of tax haven companies as the director and secretary of a company called GT Global Corporation, which was incorporated in the Bahamas on January 16, 2015.
Both Maseratis in the home’s driveway had personalised “GT” number plates.
The president of GT Global Corporation is meanwhile identified as a person surnamed Zhang (though not “Zhang Xinyue”), and a “Ms Zhang” is listed in Create Abundance promotional material as the media contact for the Rich Surrey Club.
The Vancouver translator of the Create Abundance book, who spoke to the South China Morning Post on condition of anonymity, said he had been approached about the translation work in 2014, by a man he met just once.
“The content is quite interesting to me,” said the translator. “It’s mainly about self-improvement, self-change and spiritual growth.
"I think it’s helpful to many people, especially those who feel stressed and difficult with life; that’s why I became interested.”
The book by “Teacher Xinyue” is about 400 pages long and includes chapters on “believing in miracles” and “communicating with the cosmos”.
According to online material posted by the group, its philosophy broadly suggests wealth and happiness can be achieved via spiritual and mental growth, involving exercises developed at a “brain wave research laboratory” said to be in Vancouver.
But the translator said he was not part of Create Abundance. “I usually keep a distance from them,” he said. “I don’t like to deal with them.”
The translator runs a small Vancouver publishing house that had 30,000 copies of the English translation printed in 2015. Other editions followed in French, Punjabi, Arabic and other languages.
Because the original book had already been published in China, the translator said he assumed the group had been vetted by mainland authorities. “A book like that should have gone through the official censorship,” he said.
So he was surprised when stories began to emerge in state media that cast the group in a harshly negative light.
In August 2016, the Communist Party-controlled Beijing News published a report that claimed Create Abundance used “mental control” to persuade adherents to hand over their money.
It said there were 45 Create Abundance learning centres in China.
A video of a Create Abundance meeting, posted to YouTube in 2014, shows adherents dancing ecstatically, waving their hands in the air as they wear black eye masks. Other scenes depict attendees with their eyes closed and tears streaming down their faces.
The first recruitment in Vancouver took place in October 2014, according to a promotional article on the Chinese-language website Westca, published with the name of the Rich Surrey Club’s media contact, “Ms Zhang”.
The next month, the Create Abundance International Institute Inc was listed as a new member by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce; it gave the company’s address as Guo’s South Surrey property.
A company search shows it was incorporated on July 12, 2014, and identifies the directors as Guo and Zhang, the same pair behind GT Global Corporation in the Bahamas.
Both directors shared the same mailing address, a luxury estate on four hectares in Langley, about 10km from the Surrey mansion.
A Canadian Create Abundance website was then set up by October 2015.
These events all appear to have been leading up to the group’s biggest public recruitment drive, at the Sheraton airport hotel in Richmond on April 9 and 10 that also served as a coming-out party for Create Abundance’s North American operations.
The event was called the 2016 Sakura April Days Vancouver Grand Seminar and a ticket touted “One click changes your life!”
“The person in charge … said [that] Create Abundance came into Vancouver in the fall of 2014, and has been ploughing along quietly,” the Westca article claimed, in an April 12 summary of the event that also provided a timeline of the group’s activities.
“The opportunity didn’t come until today when we invited all you friends in Vancouver for a happy gathering; we would like to report to everyone what Create Abundance has been doing in the short period of the past 20 months.”
The article said that Vancouver was the first stop for Create Abundance in North America and that since 2014 its teachings had expanded to Los Angeles, Toronto, New York and San Francisco.
It said the group had held nearly 760 salons and reading clubs involving 14,000 people.
Create Abundance teachings had made dreams come true, by mending marriages, boosting careers and even causing the “full recovery of cancer patients”, the article boasted. Naughty children had become “obedient with drastic academic improvements”, it said.
The April 2016 event included a ceremony to launch a community initiative called “Move One Person Every Day”, which the article said been attended by 500 people.
Photos of the onstage signing ceremony show they included then MP for Steveston-Richmond East Joe Peschisolido, as well as Burnaby City Councillor James Wang.
Liberal Peschisolido lost his seat in 2019. A parliamentary ethics report in February (unrelated to Create Abundance) found that he “chronically” breached financial disclosure rules.
Peschisolido could not be reached for comment. Wang did not respond to email or voicemails.
“Helen”, who said she attended the “Sakura April Days” seminars, claimed that an older woman from Hebei sitting next to her had paid US$500,000 for a so-called supervision course.
Media contact Ms Zhang wrote that among the attendees were 300 of Create Abundance’s most outstanding students from overseas, who came to Canada to teach and learn from local adherents; photos of the event show women who featured prominently as Create Abundance teachers on its international website.
The Richmond seminars were “unprecedentedly grand”, Ms Zhang said.
Another Create Abundance was held at the same Sheraton hotel on October 27 and 28, 2016.
But in China, more trouble was brewing for Create Abundance.
After the Beijing News report, Chinese police launched investigations in Shanghai, as well Guangxi, Liaoning and Jilin provinces, state media said.
On February 20, 2017, People’s Daily published a story that accused Create Abundance of fraud, and included a series of interviews with supposed victims.
After the People’s Daily report, the group published a rebuttal on its international website that condemned “biased rumours about Create Abundance that have spread around the world”, archived versions show.
The accusations against the group have not been tested or proven at a trial in China or elsewhere.
The whereabouts of Zhang Xinyue were unknown, said the People’s Daily article, although she was thought to live overseas. But it said she had attended the April 2016 events in Vancouver.
A woman named Zhao Xia reportedly told People’s Daily that she flew to Vancouver on a “pilgrimage” to the Sakura Days event, hoping to plead with Zhang Xinyue about financial losses.
But she reportedly said she was granted just one minute with “Teacher Xinyue”, who simply told her that her “energy field” needed to be corrected.
Create Abundance’s international website went offline sometime after April 2017. The Canadian site vanished after September 2019.
GT Global Corporation became inactive and was then struck off the Bahamian company register sometime between November 28, 2019, and January 17, 2020.
The Create Abundance International Institute – officially registered as Createabundance International Institute Inc – is still active, according to the BC corporate registry.
But Shaena Furlong, the communications manager at the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, said in an email that the company’s membership had lapsed. “[I] can tell you that Create Abundance International Institute Inc was a member of our Chamber between 2014 and 2017. During that time, they only attended one event (an awards gala in 2014).”
She added: “They didn't really do much to promote themselves or network through the Chamber.”
The Post attempted to contact four people listed as Vancouver contacts for Create Abundance, using six phone numbers. Two were not taking calls, one message inbox was full, one was a wrong number and one was unassigned. A voicemail left with a person associated with the Sakura Days event did not elicit a response.
The diamond crown and ‘everlasting strength’
The Maseratis were no longer visible outside the home of the Rich Surrey Club on a recent visit to the property.
Instead, a black Cadillac SUV was in the driveway, a blue surgical mask covering the number plate. No one responded to the intercom on the gate.
Police have not suggested that Zhang Xinyue or any other principals of Create Abundance were involved in the death of Bo Fan, who police say was a Chinese citizen who had lived in Canada since February 2019.
“There’s still a lot that we need to know about this organisation … [but] let me be clear, we are not making any linkages between this organisation and Ms Fan’s homicide,” said IHIT’S Jang.
Still, Fan’s association with the group was a “critical” and “huge” piece of information, considering how little police knew about the victim, Jang said.
Fan was dropped off at the hospital by friends and family, said Jang; it had not been determined where she sustained her injuries. No one has been arrested or charged “but we’re working hard to change that”, said Jang, and police had already established “an investigational theory”.
“There is still a lot of information, a lot of details, that we can’t divulge to the public,” he said.
The Chinese consulate had been informed about the case and was assisting the investigation, said Jang.
In a press statement, Jang said: “Given what we know so far in the case, we do not believe Ms Fan’s murder was random.”
As for Zhang Xinyue, she remains an enigmatic figure amid the swirl of controversy involving Create Abundance.
The group’s websites and promotional material appear never to have identified her in photographs, unlike lower-level “teachers” who are depicted lavishly dressed in professional portraits in various locations.
Supposed pictures of Zhang Xinyue that have been shared online match those of a woman at the Vancouver event, but her identity could not be confirmed.
But Zhang Xinyue’s “Teacher Xinyue” Sina blog, promoted on the defunct Create Abundance website, inadvertently reveals that she spent time at the Langley estate that is the mailing address for the directors of Createabundance International Institute Inc.
The blog includes photos on July 2016 showing a pool area, gazebo and pond. The location is not named on the blog, but the Post has identified it via a real estate listing as the sprawling Langley property that features a 6,300 sq ft Mediterranean-style mansion, several outbuildings and a waterfall.
The home was bought in July 2014 for C$5.3 million by the same person surnamed Zhang who is behind Createabundance International and GT Global Corporation in the Bahamas.
“Teacher Xinyue” did not respond to emails sent to the address on her blog, which was last updated on February 17, 2017.
The blog – which also has some material identical to that posted by “Ms Zhang” on Westca – includes a March 10, 2016, post tagged to show “Teacher Xinyue” was in Vancouver, then what appears to be the text of a speech to the “Sakura Days” event, in a posting dated April 11.
The speech thanks the “big and little angels [and] our supervisors and international students all over the world, all the partners of Create Abundance in Vancouver and all the guests who are attending the meeting today”.
“When you wear a crown, when you sit on the throne, you’ll have a profound understanding that when a soul comes to planet Earth, it doesn’t just do so for the purpose of experiencing eating, drinking, peeing, pooping and fame and fortune,” it says.
“When you own a diamond crown, you’ll have a profound understanding that you are the upward force of your family, you are the upward force of the society and you are the upward force of the universe.
"You are a flow of emptiness across all beings. Your existence is to allow every person who flows through you to find everlasting strength.”
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.