Chinese qigong master under investigation after 'vulgar magician' exposé
Authorities in southeastern Jiangxi province are investigating health techniques used by a qigong master who has ties with a long list of celebrities, including Jackie Chan and Jack Ma, and who has been accused of getting rich by defrauding believers of the supernatural.
The inquiry comes after state-backed China Central Television aired two investigative news programmes on Sunday, calling Wang Lin a phony and “a vulgar magician” living on “deluding celebrities and blinding the public”.
The Luxi Health Bureau in Jiangxi later told The Beijing News that it was looking into Wang’s claims on qigong, a practice with roots in martial arts and Chinese medicine that emphasises breathing and meditation to strengthen health.
Jiangxi resident Wang, 61, has long been known at home as a “qigong master” who is able to heal cancer and other complicated diseases with his supernatural abilities, which he acquired in the 1980s, the newspaper reported. He remained largely unknown from the general public until this month when photos of him with dozens of celebrities and senior officials emerged on the internet.
Former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, movie stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li and singer Faye Wong are among those who have been seen in photos with Wang.
Political heavyweights have also been found side by side with Wang. Top party officials Li Ruihuan, Wu Guanzheng and Jia Qinglin - all former standing committee members - and disgraced former rails minister Liu Zhijun have all met Wang if the photos are proved to be genuine.
Video clips on the internet feature Wang performing acts in which he uses “will power” to move snakes into covered vessels or to control a steering wheel without touching it. Pointing to a photo of himself with late Indonesian president Haji Mohammad Suharto, Wang also said he used qigong to extract Suharto's kidney stone.
But reports in online and traditional media have been quick to point out that there is no evidence Wang has the supernatural powers or qigong skills he has claimed. His techniques were nothing but shoddy magic tricks, critics said after closely scrutinising video clips of his performance.
Some also accuse Wang of defrauding his followers who pay large amounts of money to be taught qigong exercises. Chinese media have reported that Wang maintains an extravagant lifestyle, owning luxury cars and vast properties.
“It doesn’t matter if my qigong is real or not, as long as it does not violate laws,” Wang said in response to his critics, in an interview with the Beijing News. He also denied the fraud allegations, saying he has never charged anyone for qigong performances. “I wouldn’t have millionaires … as my friends if I were such a shameless person,” he was quoted as saying. Phone calls to Wang from the South China Morning Post went unanswered.
“Some corrupt officials opt to make friends with Wang Lin so they can seek consolation from him, counting on his supernatural power to protect them from getting caught,” sociology professor Zhou Xiaozheng said in a recent Xinhua report on Wang.
In the CCTV report, a Jiangxi businessman who said he was Wang’s apprentice accused the practitioner of taking as much as 10 million yuan (HK$13 million) as tuition fee. The businessman then found “exclusive teachings” available in books sold online for 11 yuan.