Taoist priest challenged in hate mail

SINGAPORE - His faith stresses tolerance and compassion.

But Taoist priest Chung Kwang Tong's young age and meteoric rise within the Taoist Federation may have made him the target of a hate mail.

Some of the slurs in the letter received by the Taoist Federation were so vulgar they cannot be printed in this newspaper.

The words were scrawled over an article in the Inter-Religious Organisation's (IRO) inaugural journal Inter-faith.

At 29, Mr Chung is the youngest council member of the 31-member IRO, which promotes inter-religious harmony. The article, featuring an interview with him, was dated last month.

The anonymous writer had scrawled Chinese and English phrases across the excerpts - and sent it to the Taoist Federation at Bedok North last week.

The writer or writers accused Mr Chung of being green, a disgrace to both Taoism and the IRO, and challenged him.

Mr Chung, also known as Master Wei Yi, made a police report last Thursday. A police spokesman confirmed this.

The Taoist Federation has about 500 members. Its spokesman said the hate mail was also sent to temples from Bugis to Loyang.

Chairman Tan Thiam Lye, 65, said that members who received the hate mail have described to him its content.

Mr Chung, who is the Federation's administrator, said: "Some called the Federation to alert us to the matter, while others chose to junk it. I don't know why it was sent to so many people."

The New Paper understands it was also sent to some media organisations.

Federation leaders are taking the matter so seriously that they have even analysed the handwriting - and concluded it could be the work of several people within the Taoist community.

Said Mr Tan: "We don't condone such behaviour. About 90 per cent of members are okay and we know who the unhappy ones are."

A federation official suspected something was amiss when he came across an envelope on April 16.

"We usually receive handwritten mail, but this one stood out because the address was printed nicely," he said.

He alerted Mr Chung when he saw what was inside.

Like Mr Tan, Mr Chung felt there were several possible suspects, but he declined to give details until police conclude their investigations.

"I don't know why anyone (would) want to challenge me. If they're unhappy, they can always give their feedback," he said.

"There are proper channels and I'm happy to make improvements in areas that maybe we (as a federation) have not done well in.

"What I said in the interview was factual - it's about encouraging young people who are interested in religion."

Did his high profile draw naysayers? Or was it the federation's sponsorship of his overseas degree and postgraduate stint at the National University of Singapore?

Shrugging, Mr Chung said: "It's not like I went around boasting (about my credentials). The opportunities I had were given by others."

As one of the youngest priests to be ordained (at 18 years old), Mr Chung is frequently in the spotlight here and abroad. And he's adamant the hate mail will not affect his work.

"I still enjoy what I'm doing. So I'm not bothered. I'm not afraid," he said.

Mr Tan said: "People are jealous of Kwang Tong's high profile and good performance.

"He's known not just in the community but also among other faiths. Even government agencies ask for him (to speak at inter-faith dialogues)."

Quoting a Chinese phrase, Mr Tan added: "A big tree attracts the wind. For someone so young to rise so fast because he's good at what he does, maybe certain people cannot accept it."

Mr Tan explained why he suspected the hate mail originated within the Taoist community: "Those outside wouldn't interfere in such matters. To issue a challenge like this is akin to what secret society members do.

"I'm upset at such behaviour. We should be proud of our young people's achievements instead of hitting them.

"If we find out it's done by someone from within the community, we'll sack the member."

Coward

Retired detective Lionel De Souza, who has known Mr Chung for three years through grassroots work, called the hate mail writer "a bloody coward".

He said: "Chung is very open-minded. You should see him with different religious leaders. He's very dedicated.

"The authorities should not let this pass. Something must be done about these people who hide behind the cloak of anonymity and create problems."

A follower named A. Long said he was sad and disappointed to learn about the episode.

He wrote on Mr Chung's social media page: "The past efforts and hard work were not appreciated. This has also destroyed the harmony (sic) image of our Taoist community."

Handwriting expert says...

A graphologist, who wanted to be known only as Mr Bill, pieced together the writer's personality based on the hate mail, which The New Paper forwarded to his office.

Mr Bill, who has 25 years' experience as a handwriting expert, said the person is likely to be:

1. Individualistic and egocentric

The individual letters are fairly large, hinting that the writer is expressive and vocal.

The bigger the writing, the bolder the writer.

2. Socially inhibited, avoids close encounters, lonely

Usually, people are taught to write in a vertical style.

Writing vertically or upwards means the person tends to be neutral when making decisions - the proverbial "look before you leap" trait.

But in this case, the leftward slant is very strong, signalling an introvert.

He probably spends a lot of time thinking deeply.

3. Spasmodic thinking, stubborn, critical

A disconnected style (from individual capital/ block letters) and the angular alphabets reflect a stubborn character.

The strokes for letters like "p" and "g" are extended beyond the base line, showing a critical nature.

4. It's not over

Also, the stroke in "e" is drawn out, showing the person is unlikely to be satisfied. He or she has more to say.

"This (letter) is unlikely to be the last episode," Mr Bill said.

This article was published on April 25 in The New Paper.Get The New Paper for more stories.