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So long as there are gullible people seeking a cure for their ailments, using religion as a tool to become wealthy has become the road to riches of leaders of cults.
One such cult is Milefo Dao which is based on the worship of the Maitreya Buddha. However, its leader, 61-year-old Li Changlu, has been detained following a crackdown on cults in China when a woman was beaten to death in McDonald’s Zhaoyuan, Shandong Province, in 2014 for not giving her phone number to six members of a cult called Almighty God.
Li Changlu, who gathered former Zhong Gong cult members in 2011, established Milefo Dao and added more followers from 23 regions in China. He claims to be a reincarnation of the Maitreya Buddha and made tons of money – estimated to have reached 10 million yuan accumulated over a decade – by claiming the healthcare products he is selling has Buddha powers.
He took off where Zhong Gong, established in 1987 four years after the Falun Gong movement was prohibited by Chinese authorities, by tapping traditional Chinese ideas such as meditation exercises for better health and enlightenment.
But beyond Zhong Gong’s beliefs, Li Changlu’s teachings include a warning of a mass extinction event which could be survived by being faithful followers of Maitreya Buddha’s teachings. In 2012, he opened a company to handle Milefo Dao’s finances with branches across China.
He initially evaded arrest by requiring members to change their phone numbers often, use secret codes and live in isolated rented homes.
Milefo Dao is one of 14 cults that the State Council and Ministry of Public Security have identified since the 1990s. In August, police arrested 21 key officials of Milefo Dao, seized 10.32 million yuan, 37 bank cards and 82 books of cult teachings.
On April 1, 16 members of Milefo Dao were sentenced from two to six years jail term by a local court in Hebei Province. The cult’s leaders were charged with spreading superstitions.
Ahead of the G20 Summit in September, hosted by Hangzhou, China would deploy 1 million security volunteers tasked with cracking down on religious cults, IBT reported in May.