China News (Letters Page)

(Published in the China News (daily English newspaper in Taiwan): "Regarding the Chen Tao "religious" sect led by Hon-Ming Chen, a fourtysomething sociology professor from Taiwan, one must first of all establish the context in which this cult exists. In Taiwan, a professor is given a lot of status in society, and many people will look up to him/her regardless of the beliefs they espouse. I have spoken to many Taiwanese here in Taipei since this story hit the >newspapers over the Xmas holidays, and almost everyone I talk to says that since Chen is a professor he must be very smart and intelligent and in possession of a high IQ. Nobody is really calling him crazy here, whereas in the USA, most journalists covering the story probably think the man is a certified nut case. Let's look at his history and beliefs. He says, without blinking an eyelash, that he is the father of the Christian Christ-figure, who was born some 2000 years ago in the Middle East. Allegedly fathered via immaculate conception. So Mr. Chen in 20th Century Taiwan, the Republic of China (Free China, some say), tells reporters in Texas he is the daddy of Jesus, and that two of the children in the cult wearing white cowboy hats are reincarnations, respectively, of Jesus and Buddha. Now we're talking heavy-duty belief systems here. That his flock "buys" his perachings, at $60,000 a head (for adults), says that we are dealing with a bunch of seriously reality-challenged airheads. Nice people, most probably, but not very much on the bright side. But you in the USA must understand that in Taiwan many people are susceptible to these kind of New Age hocus-pocus beliefs because they have been victimized by Western ideas. Anyway, Mr Chen is coming to messiah-hood via a few books he has written, the texts of which have been scanned by independent anticult reporters Rodney Perkins and Forrest Jackson in Texas. Accoring to Internet website maintained by Perkins/Jackson, Chen claims that God will make a personal appearance on March 31 at 10 a.m., advertised six days in advance on Channel 18 all over America. We are talking loony tunes here! In addition, by combining elements of Buddhism, Christianity and Taiwanese folk religion, Chen has his followers eating out his hand. And speakingof hands, it has now been reported, in the Gary (Indiana) Post-Tribune (Jan.10) that Mr Chen speaks to God by speaking to the palm of his hand. Yes, and the white cowboy hats he and his followers wear apparently allow God's spirit to enter their bodies! Hello? Hello? As often is the case with Asian cults, Chen's take on the Hebrew Testaments is laced with a bit of old-fashioned anti-Hebrewism, saying that he finds the so-called "Old" Testament to be "narrowminded, cruel, unable to tell the difference between good and evil and partial with preference only for the Jews." Oh, them damned Hebrews, calling themselves the Chosen People and all! What chutzpah! What hubris! Well, hellooooooooooooooo, Mr Chen! Let's scapegoat the ancient Israelites once again, in a fine tradition that has come down the centuries from cult to cult, from the early Christians to the dopey Aum Supreme Truth dummies of Japan, whose leader also engaged in Hebrew-bashing in some of his holy texts on sarin gassing and subway etiquette. It's time for a little reality checking around here: Not only is Mr Chen a total fraud, he is also a rather stupid "thinker." He claims to be Jesus's daddy, says God will appear in his body on March 31 at exactly 10 am, tells his followers to wear white cowboy hats (called "heavenly crowns" in Chenspeak), collects very high fees for membership dues, claims a UFO (or some kind of strange cloud) will come to Garland on March 31 and takes his flock on trips to Alaska, Colorado, Indiana and casino-laced Las Vegas (nice touch, that) to perform holy riturals. The upshot of all this is that we are dealing with a man who knows not of what he speaks, although he is undoubtedly sincere in his preachings and teachings, as are all his followers as well. But...what the USA media has not reported and does not know, is that the Taiwan police have received letters, cassettes and videotapes from ex-cultists alleging "nightmare" journeys here and there, outright financial fraud and misleading religious tenets. What the USA media needs to zero in on now, other than the entertainment and freak show aspect of this Garland Gaga Show is the real misdeeds of the cult leadership. Of course, the cult is free to pursue its vision, given the best of all possible worlds where we find ourselves in, but on the other hand, the media has a right as the Fourth Estate to investigate this catatonic cult from a rational perspective. If enough details are brought to light in a serious and probing way before the end of March dawns across the vast expanse of eternal and infinite Texas, maybe the cult can be disbanded and "sent home" (to Taiwan) before a horrible tragedy occurs. Hopefully, without too much loss of face." -- Terry Walker (published Jan. 12 in Taiwan; webposted Jan. 15)

New York Times - Feb. 27 (by Edward A. Gargan)

TAIPEI -- - Ho Hsien-jung cradled a bloated aluminum saucer on his lap and looked worried. "We are scientists," he fumed, carefully placing the shining saucer alongside others on a shelf in his narrow living room. "Our research into UFOs is scientific. All these other people are cheats. They're cheating people." As chairman of the Chinese Flying Saucer Research Association, Ho has good reason to be concerned: a growing number of people in Taiwan are reporting sightings of flying saucers and he has never seen one. Moreover, these sightings have been used by a growing number of religious prophets who promise everything from a fast-approaching apocalypse to instant wealth, alarming authorities at a spreading pattern of religious and financial fraud. Many people here say that they have been fleeced of their life savings by these cult leaders, who are preying on a society that has gone through tumultuous political and economic transformations in the last decade: from dictatorship to democracy, from developing country to one of the strongest economies in Asia. "From ancient times to the Qing dynasty," which ended in 1911, "there are historical records showing more than 1,000 UFO sightings," insisted Ho, leafing through a detailed listing of historical texts describing mysterious objects and lights in the sky. "But in Taiwan," he continued, "you can't really see UFOs. They don't come to Taiwan very often. Taiwan is just a small island. They can't see it from outer space." Undeterred by such assertions from Taiwan's pre-eminent saucer authority, a former medical professor named Chen Heng-ming spent last year busily assembling devotees into his sect, the God Saves the Earth Flying Saucer Association. Perhaps because Taiwan is so small, Chen has taken about 100 of his followers to the wide open ranges of Texas where they will, in the words of a follower, Wu Chun-sheng, "be meeting God, who would arrive on a flying saucer to save them." From Dallas, the believers will be whisked to Mars neat year in flying saucers. Living a year in a flying saucer, she said, "would be like 10 years on earth." Interplanetary travel, however, appears to come with a price tag. The parents of several sect members have complained to the police that their children gave Chen huge sums of money for the privilege of a saucer ride. In Texas, the authorities are reportedly worried that he intends to orchestrate a mass suicide in the fashion of Heaven's Gate, an American sect in which dozens of members committed collective suicide in San Diego last year. In articles with blaring headlines here, Chen has repeatedly assured the people of Taiwan that he has no intention of committing suicide; indeed, he said, he and his 100 or so followers were just "waiting to ride a flying saucer into heaven," a trip that would start on March 31, 1999, at precisely 10 p.m. While Chen was scuttling off to Texas for his promised encounter of the third kind, a man named Wu Tai-chung has been corralling members into his own sect, the Sky and Earth Enlightenment Association, by assuring them that he arrived from outer space to save them from planetary Armageddon. Brandishing photographs taken in Taiwan's central mountain district, Wu told his growing number of followers that the dots of sun glare marring the pictures were in fact "points of inner energy" from outer space; merging with those dots would, Wu declared, allow believers to soar into outer space on a flying saucer. Like the rides offered by Chen, the ticket to salvation by saucer is no bargain. "We believed, we completely believed," said Tai Chiu-fen, a 38-year-old mother of seven and owner of a auto repair shop. "We got involved because my husband had these headaches and we were told he didn't have to have medicine and he would get better. We were very curious and decided to try it." She and her husband gave Wu Tai-chung the equivalent of about $312,000, she said. "We have no money left. We spent it all, or rather, we were cheated of it all." As the flying saucer cults spread, national authorities and officials in Taipei, a city of 6 million, are becoming increasingly alarmed at people's gullibility. "This so-called religious problem is a social problem," said Chen Shui-bian, Taipei's mayor, in an interview in his spartan office. "In Taiwan society, many people do not have faith in themselves. They feel they can't place their faith in ordinary things, including science and technology, so they put it into these religions." "These religions," he continued, "are not real religions. They are just another form of deception. People get deeply involved. It's not a question of education because a lot of professors, Ph.D.'s, they can believe in these type of things." Mrs. Tai, who gave all her money to the Sky and Earth sect, reluctantly agreed with her mayor when asked why she turned to Wu's group. Sighing deeply, she explained: "The pressure on our life is very heavy. We all seek spiritual sustenance. I believed in him. He had pictures. He showed them to us. Everyone said it was true, it was real." She added: "He said that if you want to travel this road, you can't take belongings from this world. No possessions. Only then can you reach this force." So uneasy are the Taiwan authorities about the spread of these cults that prosecutors have begun criminal investigations into whether adherents have been defrauded. Liao Cheng-hao, the minister of justice, said in an interview that the reasons for the spread of the cults was "very, very easy to understand," adding: "People feel empty and are searching for a kind of civilized society. They are all looking for the true religion. But these flying saucer cults are a relatively strange phenomenon." For Ho, for whom flying saucers are a serious business, there is no mystery about them. "If there's a UFO in the sky, you can see it," he said. "It has a shape, a form, It has mass. All the others are cheats." Despite the spread of cults claiming links with beings on flying saucers, Ho said he was determined to soldier on with his work. "Our research is scientific," he said. "How could we be affected by these cults? How could this hurt our reputation?" "Religion itself is very mysterious," Ho said. "Adding UFOs only makes it more attractive. But if you're using UFOs in your religion, your religion has got real problems."

From the "Cults 'R Us" Hit List (link)

A website titled CULT 'R US on the Internet -- you can find it at: -- has entered the Chen Tao cult in Garland as an unofficial entry on its "hit list." Read it for yourself onsite or peruse the copy that follows: "God's Salvation Church (-) Not yet an official member of the Cults 'R Us Hit List, the God's Salvation Church has emerged in San Dimas, California as potentially suicidal sect eerily reminiscent to the Heaven's Gate cult. The Taiwan-based God's Salvation Church came to the attention of authorities on December 24, 1997, when Sheriff's detectives went to investigate a Taiwanese woman's claim that her teen-age daughter was kidnapped by her cult member uncle. While rescuing the girl at the church, detectives learned that the group was going to Garland, Texas, where they expect Christ to come down in a flying saucer to pick them up . Authorities also found neatly packed backpacks with matching white clothing and sneakers for the members to take in their heavenly rendevouz. _____ Already 140 followers of the church -- dressed in white and wearing sunglasses and white cowboy hats -- have left for Garland for the expected March 31 dat with their maker. Though church members deny their intentions of commiting mass suicide, Taiwanese media reported last week that the group's leader, Hon-Ming Chen, was encouraging newcomers to kill themselves so their bodies could be picked up by flying saucers. Chen -- who believes the Bible got it all wrong -- decided to move his church to Garland early this summer because the name sounds like and means "God's Land." He also interprets promotional sky writings as signs from God especifically directed at him. Although Chen denied any suicide plans, the former Taiwanese sociology teacher did claim to be the father of Jesus Christ and that God will assume his body at 10 a.m. on March 31. (c)1998 CRUS

First Sighting -- June 26 webpost (fr: Canada)

While doing a search engine troll on hotbot looking for "Hon-Ming Chen," we unexpectedly came up with an amazing find! Apparently, the Chen Tao cult, then calling itself God's Salvation Church, placed expensive advertisments in two Canadian newspapers, the Vancouver Sun and The Province in British Columbia, as you will see below. This webpost is dated June 26, 1997 -- more than 6 months before the sstory "broke" in the USA and Taiwan! A chap by the name of "Tal" posted the item, which goes as follows: "Two Jesuses meet in Canada!" was Tal's headline; then he wrote:_____ [ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ EnterActs - July 1997 Archive ]_____ Posted by Tal on June 26, 1997 at 09:47:22:_____ He is finally here.....whoops.... wait a minute... there are two of them. Now what do I do? Thought you might get a kick out of this. Sad but funny. Anyway... this is suppose to be taken from a paper in Vancouver. -------------VANCOUVER SETTING FOR REUNION OF 2 'CHRISTS' by Ian Austin____ (VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA) -- June 1997 -- "Christ" is coming to Vancouver to find himself. According to the God's Salvation Church of San Dimas, Calif., a Taiwanese eight-year-old who is the "Jesus Christ of East" is due here tomorrow to m;eet the "Jesus Christ of West."_____ "This is the choice of our heavenly father," Ling-Ling Chen said fron Garland, Tes., whence she's preparing to make the trek to Vancouver. Chen's husband Hon-Ming Chen, the 42-year-old founder of the church, purports to have been told by God of the Western Christ._____ "He is about 27-30 years old, and he's living in Vancouver, and he knows who he is," said Ling-Ling, 37. The Chen family-they have two children, Yen-Jen and Yen-Jye-are not shy about their search.____ They spent thousands of dollars on large ads in The Province and the Vancouver Sun hoping to catch the eye of the holy man living here._____ "It is the time for the Jesus Christ of East and the Jesus Christ of West being together," reads the ad from the Chens, recent emigrants from Taiwan._____ "We are going to Vancouver B.C. Canada to meet with you according to the sign from our Lord the heavenly father. We estimate to arrive in Vancouver at 13:15 p.m. with the flight No. 533 via Air Canada on June 25, 1997. You are going to see a child named Lo Chi-Jen in their group who is the eastern Jesus Christ with a Chinese farmer's hat (shape like the top of a gazebo)on his head and the crown of heaven in his hand, and that is the affirmation of the reunion."_____ That is the article written for the ad, Here is the ad. (It was bordered by triangles and plus signs):______ _/_/_/_/: JESUS CHRIST! It is time for SALVATION and being TOGETHER Reveal the secret from heaven for the coming of Jesus Christ. Every person including Jesus has three spiritual bodies. About two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ was crucified (this is to realize the proclamation that he will come again, reference to Bible Mathew 24; The Great Tribulation). The Holy Spirit is then divided into three parts:____ One Parts: The Son of man is coming in the year 1999 after the great tribulation, then all the tribes of earth will mourn and they will see the Son of man coning on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory._____ Another Parts: Born in the eastern Asia-Taiwan.____ The Other Parts: Born in the West-Vancouver B.C. Canada.____ Why will come this way? This is the way he promised to appear.____ (1) Not to let the selected ones from the Lord be astrayed from false Christ, for many will come in My name, saying "I am the Christ".____ (2) To practice the proclaimed, for as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of man.___ (3) At the year of 1999, the days in the East (east Asia) as were the days of Noah, with the flood coming so will the coming of the Son of man fromt he east for hte salvation.___ (4) The days of Sodom must take place in the east Asia, which will happen with the suffering of nuclear war, all of these will happen before the last 6 months of 1999.___ Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away (This is *our Lord* the heavenly father's promise of salvation to the mankind.)___ 2.* Our Lord the Heavenly Father has come for the Salvation! The kingdom of heaven has arrived!* This actually happened at the beginning of the year of 1996. In the year 1999 after the great tribulation, *our lord* the heavenly father and Jesus Christ will come to earth on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.___ It is the time for the Jesus Chrsit of East and the Jesus Christ of West being together.___ *Your family members and disciples of two thousand years ago have revived (born again). We are going to Vancouver, B.C. Canada to meet with you according to the sign from our Lord the heavenly father. We estimate *to arrive in Vancouver at 13:15 PM with the flight NO. 533 via Air Canada June 25, 1997.* You are going to see a child named Lo, Chi-Jen in their group who is the eastern Jesus Christ with a Chinese farmer's hat (shape like the top of a gazebo) on his head and the crown of heaven in his hand, and that is the affirmation of the reunion. _____END ADVERTISEMENT

New York Times ____March 4, 1998

GARLAND, Texas______The members of the Chen Tao (The True Way) UFO cult started moving in last summer. They have bought at least 30 homes, all with cash and all within a two-and-a-half-mile radius. At least 150 followers have arrived from Taiwan, with more on their way. They dress almost completely in white, including white sneakers and white straw cowboy hats. Their leader, Heng-ming Chen, whom they call "Teacher Chen," says he talks to God through his hand and discerns godly wisdom from golden balls that he sees floating in the sky.___ Preaching of divinity, and rumors of suicide. _______ But what has really attracted the neighbors' attention here is the bold pronouncement in Teacher Chen's long guide to his religion, entitled "God's Descending in Clouds (Flying Saucers) on Earth to Save People." On page 176, he promises: "At 10 a.m. on March 31, 1998, God shall make His appearance in the Holy Land of the Kingdom of God: 3513 Ridgedale Dr., Garland, TX 75041 U.S.A." He concludes: "I guarantee this on my life." The modest, split-level, beige-brick home at 3513 Ridgedale Drive is the home of Teacher Chen, a 42-year-old former social-science professor who says he fathered Christ nearly 2,000 years ago and whose group includes two boys, Chi-Jen Lo and Che-Yu Chiang, whom he describes as the reincarnations of Jesus and Buddha. In Garland, a working-class city of about 200,000 people just north of Dallas, the arrival of this religious group with its unusual garb and rituals has been greeted with some wariness, but mostly bemusement. "They told me that Garland is God's land, and I thought, 'Well, OK, to each his own,' " said Bonnie Nichols, who lives three doors down from Chen. Said her husband, Carl: "They all seem nice enough. They're quiet. They keep their yards up and everything." But back in Taiwan, where Chen's followers generally sold everything they owned before coming here, the group's gathering in Texas has been major news. It has set off a wave of concern from distraught relatives who describe Chen as a cult leader who has both swindled and brainwashed the members into paying him their life savings for the supposed privilege of taking a ride on a flying saucer to heaven. Even more alarmingly, there have been recurring rumors reported in the Taiwan press, that the group plans to commit mass suicide if God does not arrive on schedule in Garland on March 31. Teacher Chen, in an interview in front of his home, staunchly denied that his group, which includes several former professors and engineers, has any suicidal tendencies. "That is absolutely impossible," he said through his interpreter, Richard Liu, as the boy whom Chen describes as the reincarnation of Jesus, 10-year-old Chi-Jen Lo, stood a few steps away, drinking Mountain Dew soda and nibbling on raisins. "Our principle is respect for all life, including human life, and no one has the right to take a life." At the same time, though, Chen says he will has volunteered to surrender his fate to his followers if his prophecies prove untrue. "He is willing to be executed, stoned to death, put on a cross," Liu said. "It doesn't matter." In Taiwan, the group is known as the most controversial outgrowth of a booming national interest in unidentified flying objects. Numerous associations and quasi-religious organizations that track sightings or predict arrivals of UFOs have cropped up around the island nation. Chen's group, whose Chinese characters are best translated as "God Saves the Earth Flying Saucer Association," started its first American chapter in San Dimas, Calif., in 1995. But it moved to Texas last year after the leader said he received a prophecy from God instructing him to move to the suburbs of Dallas. If you say it fast, Chen tells his followers and curious visitors, "Garland sounds just like 'God's Land.' " In most cases, intact families have joined the group, although late last year sheriff's deputies in Los Angeles County retrieved a 16-year-old girl, Nan-Hua Chiang, after her mother in California expressed fears that she was joining a dangerous pilgrimage with the group to Texas. No one knows whether Chen's group may be an Asian version of Heaven's Gate, the reclusive group that committed mass suicide last March in a suburban house near San Diego in an attempt to rendezvous with Comet Hale-Bopp, or whether members simply subscribe to an unusual set of beliefs and will simply accept the development if God does not appear here on March 31. Taiwanese officials in Texas, who say they are monitoring the group, play down its prospects for self-harm, noting that most group members have temporary United States visas and bought round-trip tickets to come here. "They're just average people, just following their leader," insisted Chi-Chia Chen, assistant to the director general of Taiwan's Economic and Cultural Office in Houston, the equivalent of a consulate. "Their leader claims God will show on March 31 and will send a flying saucer to pick them up. If God doesn't show, then he says his followers can pack and go back to normal life in Taiwan." Perhaps, but if interviews with Teacher Chen and several followers here are a reliable guide to their deepest beliefs, none would seem to have any intention of returning to Taiwan or any place else in Asia, even though many of their visas for stays in this country are scheduled to expire this spring. Pointing to the ground in front of Teacher Chen's house, Ching-Hung Chiang, a follower, said: "This is where God is going to come. This is where God is going to be." Chiang and many other followers were very friendly, and seemed open about sharing their views with a reporter. Asia is headed for nuclear annihilation in 1999, Chen predicts, and recent events there -- the economic crisis, enormous fires in Indonesia -- are but a small prelude to the apocalyptic disaster (he calls it the "Great Tribulation") in store for the whole continent. The Western Hemisphere, Chen says, will be spared much of the turmoil, though not all -- brewing galactic disturbances, not El Nino, are causing the recent severe weather on both coasts, he asserts. According to his timetable, on March 25, God will make an announcement of His arrival, which can be seen by tuning into Channel 18 on any television set in the world. Then, on March 31, God will suddenly appear at the suburban house here, taking the human form of Chen. At that time, there will appear to be two Chens, but the one who is God will be instantly recognizable because He will be able to walk through walls, converse in any language and instantly clone Himself to simultaneously shake hands with everyone who comes to 3513 Ridgedale Drive. Then, in exactly one year, from a primary rendezvous point on the shores of Lake Michigan in Gary, Ind., the select few will travel on flying saucers, possibly first to Mars, and eventually to heaven. Chen and his followers caused a stir in January when they traveled to Gary and, in the shadow of the huge USX steel plant there, conducted a "purification ceremony" in the 37-degree waters of the lake with rice, fruit and ceramic dragons. The group has also traveled above the Arctic Circle in Alaska, and spent a few weeks last summer in British Columbia searching for a man whom Chen describes as the "Jesus of the West" (the boy Chi-Jen Lo is the Jesus of the East). The group could not find the man who, according to the prophecies Chen says he has received, is 28 years old, about 6 feet tall and looks like Abraham Lincoln. The group in Garland, whose members are said to range from a baby born Dec. 17 to a 95-year-old woman, does not lack for money, and its members spend most of their time in rituals and study; none seemed to hold jobs. Walt Hsu, marketing manager for a local bank here and a board director of the Garland Chamber of Commerce, said that many members had sold homes for more than $500,000 in Taiwan, bought houses here for an average of about $70,000, and deposited the rest in local bank accounts. Just how much control Chen has over all the money is unclear. But in Taipei, City Councilor Hui-chu Chin said in December that she had received 16 letters from family members of Chen's followers, seeking assistance in getting the members back to Taiwan and in recovering their assets, according to the Central News Agency of Taiwan. For now, the group continues to travel periodically to Gary and other places it considers holy. Members recently made a large purchase of lumber and concrete from the local Home Depot, but plans to use the material to build a giant pagoda in Chen's backyard were put on hold after the teacher could not secure a permit from the local buildings department. In the main, the group simply awaits the coming of God, an event for which nonplused Garland officials are also preparing. "Our job, come March 31 at 10 a.m., will be crowd control and media access," said Officer J.D. Bettes a Garland police spokesman. (c) 1998 NYTIMES CORP.