Cult leader for real, Hsieh's wife says

The Real Article?: Even though Sung Chi-li, a religious leader, has been convicted of fraud, Yu Fang-chih says both she and her husband believe in the man's divine powers

Taipai Times/December 11, 2002

Sung Chi-li leaves the Taiwan High Court yesterday surrounded by his followers after the the court's final "debate session'' on his fraud appeal case.

Yu Fang-chih, wife of Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh, yesterday morning said in court that she and her husband still believe in Sung Chi-li -- a notorious cult leader who claims to have supernatural powers -- despite his conviction for fraud, Chinese-language media reported yesterday.

Sung claims to possess magical powers, which he uses to solicit donations with promises of power, wisdom or fortune. Both the mayor and his wife have been the cult leader's sincere followers for years.

Sung was sued by some of his former followers for fraud in 1997. One of 17 defendants in the case was Yu, who was charged for helping Sung publish a series of religious books to attract followers.

Sung was found guilty that year, as was his assistant Cheng Chen-tung. Both were given seven-year sentences. Another assistant, Lo Cheng-hung, was given a two-year sentence for the same charges.

The case was appealed, and in yesterday's court session at the Taiwan High Court, Sung was accompanied by almost 100 followers, most holding flowers in deference to their leader.

During yesterday's proceedings, Yu said that she still firmly believes in Sung.

"Both my husband [Hsieh] and I still believe in Sung's divine powers to this day," Yu said yesterday.

After the session, Yu told reporters that Sung was absolutely innocent.

"I witnessed his divinity with my own eyes," Yu said, insisting that the cult leader's spirit could leave his body and move around.

In response, the Kaohsiung City Government issued a press release yesterday evening, saying that Hsieh supported his wife's words.

"Hsieh supports his wife and believes that her religious belief is good. He also hopes that people can respect the freedom of religious beliefs," the press release said.

According to police, Sung insisted during his investigation that he has supernatural powers and can get people to do whatever he says.

Police therefore invited him to display his powers in public. But he failed to persuade a standing police officer to sit down despite repeated attempts.

Sung also frequently used "divine photos" to win the trust of his followers.

The pictures usually depicted colorful rays of light in the sky and a ring of light around his head.

However, these photos were proven to have been doctored using basic computer graphics skills.

In 1997, then New Party Taipei City councilor Chu Mei-feng (˗ŸȖ) first rose to prominence after becoming the first to denounce Sung.

In 1998, Hsieh's close relations with the notorious cult leader were seriously questioned by the public during the Kaohsiung mayoral election.

It was not clear when the Taiwan High Court would rule on the appeal.

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