The knives are out for qigong 'master'
MR WANG Lin, an exponent of the ancient Chinese practice of qigong, claims he has used his powers to cure cancer and perform feats like conjuring snakes out of thin air. But none of his abilities were enough to ward off the fury of the Communist Party, which has accused him of using superstition to attract gullible citizens and officials.
For weeks, Chinese websites, newspapers and television have presented a swelling wave of accusations against Mr Wang: bewitching and swindling patients, dodging taxes and associating with criminal-gang members and corrupt officials.
On Tuesday, The People's Daily - the main newspaper of the Communist Party - raised the pitch of the official condemnation and accused him of doling out "spiritual opium" to credulous cadres.
Hiding in Hong Kong, where he fled to avoid possible arrest, Mr Wang said in an interview on Tuesday that he was the innocent victim of a political vendetta that has rippled outwards from a business dispute in his home town in Jiangxi province, in southern China.
He said he hoped that discussing his case would show he was the target, rather than perpetrator, of corrupt political dealings.
"It's as if the whole country has turned against me, turning black into white and white into black," Mr Wang said from a chic hotel room where he has been hiding out from reporters and - his associates say - Chinese officials. "It's truly beyond my comprehension."
The diminutive 61-year-old has attracted a following among businessmen, officials and others, according to Chinese news reports. His recent downfall started with a burst of publicity about him meeting Mr Jack Ma, one of China's richest entrepreneurs, and Liu Zhijun, the former railways minister recently jailed for graft.
"The pictures of those meetings dragged Wang into the limelight, and then the publicity became 'fatal' when it attracted official attention," said Sima Nan, a media commentator in Beijing who has denounced Mr Wang.
Mr Wang said his dealings with officials were entirely innocent. He said he had met the former railways minister to discuss a business deal involving a friend. But he denied reports that he had assured Liu that the minister would not fall from power.
Separately, an official from the National Health and Family Planning Commission, Ms Xue Xiaolin, said on the agency's website that Mr Wang was under investigation for illegal medical work, and warned that "there will be no soft handling" if he is found culpable.
He was coy about discussing reports that he has claimed to use psychic powers to move heavy objects, and said that his performances involving conjuring snakes from thin air were "tricks" to amuse friends.
"You can put the qigong label on many things," he said. "I never promoted myself as a qigong master; others called me that."