BEIJING, China – Authorities have shut two temples on a sacred Buddhist mountain in northern China and arrested six people after fake monks reportedly deceived tourists into donating money, Chinese state media and an official said Sunday.
The Mount Wutai Administration Bureau closed two of the mountain’s dozens of temples and revoked their business licenses Friday, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It said the six people were arrested over illegal funding and that the temples had reportedly hired fake monks to con tourists into buying expensive incense and paying unreasonable amounts of money for ceremonies.
An official surnamed Ma at the Wutai Scenic Spot Administration confirmed two temples had been closed and six people detained, and said the case was still under investigation. He refused to give his full name.
Last year, the government’s religious affairs office called on local authorities to ban profiteering related to religious activity and told them not to allow religious venues to be run as business ventures.
The Chinese government has strict controls on religion, with temples, churches and mosques run by state-controlled groups. Even so, religion is booming, along with tourism, giving some places a chance to cash in.
Mount Wutai was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2009. It is known for its five flat peaks and a cultural landscape with 41 monasteries, including the highest surviving timber building of the Tang dynasty.