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Supposed telekinetic qigong healer can't dispel skepticism

(Xinhua)

09:09, July 31, 2013

Self-proclaimed "qigong master" Wang Lin lived a luxurious life away from the public eye for two decades, but pictures of him receiving celebrities at his home in east China's Jiangxi Province have changed that.

Since the photos popped up online earlier this month, video clips of Wang resurrecting beheaded snakes, recovering paper from ashes and shredding steel with his bare hands have circulated online.

Alongside these outrageous feats, stories of him curing people of illnesses in exchange for large sums of money have also surfaced.

Wide media coverage of his so-called "supernatural powers," his unprecedented popularity among the elite and his fortune have drawn skepticism from social science professors, people devoted to discrediting pseudoscientific claims and the general public.

They are asking: Does he really possess supernatural powers? Did he accumulate his wealth through legal means? Has he been carrying out illegal medical practices?

SUPERPOWER OR SUPER TRICK?

Wang Lin told the daily Beijing News in a July 22 interview that he had once been assessed by a team of 17 Japanese scientists for seven straight days and nights.

He also said that U.S. intelligence agencies offered him 70 green cards to try to persuade him to emigrate, but he turned them down because of his attachment to his hometown.

When Sima Nan, an online celebrity famous for debunking pseudoscientific claims, questioned Wang about whether the "miracles" achieved through his qigong mastery were simply magic tricks, Wang became offended and said he could kill Sima with his fingers from just a few meters away.

In his self-published book "Chinese People," Wang claimed he could use thought to transport materials, which is the highest level of qigong practice.

Qigong, which combines breathing, physical exercise and mental training methods based on Chinese philosophy, is practiced by people from China and around the world for the purposes of strengthening the body, maintaining health, meditating and training in martial arts.

Wang told the Beijing News that he has cured many patients, including former President of Indonesia [email protected] However, doubts have been cast by a skeptical public, who believe he's simply doing magic tricks, not harnessing telekinetic powers.

"He knew some tricks for summoning cigarettes and wine from thin air, but that was only magic," a man who worked with him on a farm in Yifeng County for more than ten years said.

"I never heard of him being able to cure disease," said the man who declined to be named.

According to the person in charge of the farm, Wang served prison terms in the 1970s for sexual harassment.

Wang refused to respond to the claim.

Zhou Xiaozheng, a social science professor with Renmin University of China, said similar tricks are common in magic shows at home and abroad.

MASTER OR CHARLATAN?

Wang lives in a five-story villa in Luxi County. With three Hummers and a Rolls-Royce parked in the yard, he is known as the county's richest person.

Wang was a no-show in court on Tuesday, when his trial over a property dispute with a former disciple opened in Nanchang City.

The Jiangxi Provincial Higher People's Court began hearing the case in which Zou Yong, a businessman who formally acknowledged Wang as his master before November 2012, is suing Wang over a housing contract dispute involving more than 30 million yuan (4.8 million U.S. dollars).

The trial opened a day after authorities in Jiangxi's city of Pingxiang, Wang's hometown, opened an investigation into Wang's alleged illegal medical practices.

China Central Television (CCTV) on Sunday broadcast an investigative report on Wang, describing him as a swindler who made his fortune by fooling celebrities and government officials.

Prior to the trial, Zou, chairman of the Pingxiang-based Jiangxi Tianyu Fuel Group, said he paid 5 million yuan in fees to become Wang's disciple in 2009, but Wang did not teach him ways to master qigong. "Most of the time he asked me to practice on my own."

Wang, on the other hand, said he never fooled people into giving him money.

"I'm not this kind of person, or I wouldn't have so many billionaires as my friends," Wang said in an interview with Xinhua.

He added that whether he has supernatural powers or not, he performs for fun just two or three times a year and does not make money from it.

CURIOUS OR GULLIBLE?

Billionaire Jack Ma Yun, former Minister of Railways Liu Zhijun, and movie stars Jet Li, Vicki Zhao Wei and Li Bingbing are just a few of the high-profile clients that have gone to Wang's villa for help.

After pictures taken of Wang Lin surfaced online, Li Bingbing and Jack Ma Yun quickly explained their involvement with him.

Li Bingbing acknowledged to the Beijing News that she once sought help for her mother's illness. She added that it will take time to see if Wang's treatment is effective.

Jack Ma Yun, on the other hand, wrote on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like microblogging platform, "My friends often criticize me for showing interest in 'non-scientific' knowledge. Exploration, appreciation and curiosity in the unknown have always been my interest. Finding out the secrets behind the unknown is exciting."

However, many Internet users are curious about why Wang's supposed feats have piqued the interest of so many superstars and high-ranking officials.

Zhou Xiaozheng said curiosity and superstition led people to visit Wang. "But unfortunately, Wang did not safeguard corrupt officials like Liu Zhijun from downfall."

"Ignorance and corruption are the reasons why 'masters' like Wang rise to fame," said Sima Nan.

QUACK DOCTORS

Cases like Wang's are not that unusual, as people claim to have the power to cure illnesses from time to time.

In 2010, Zhang Wuben, a self-proclaimed nutritionist, became a guru overnight through his food therapy forums on a television program. His hallmark theory held that mung beans could be a panacea and his book, "Eat Out the Diseases You Have Eaten," became a best-seller.

Zhang's medical qualifications were later exposed as false and his theories have been refuted, as followers failed to find a cure to their diseases through expensive consultations with Zhang.

In 2011, Ma Yueling, once considered the "Health Godmother" in China, claimed that she cured diseases ranging from cancer to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) through a variety of unorthodox treatments.

It later came to light that Ma was a nurse without the necessary certifications or qualifications to prescribe treatments.

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