You’re not a monk ... you’re a fake: how one Buddhist crusader is catching out Hong Kong’s street scammers

South China Morning Post, 18 March, 2016

Mary Jean Reimer’s video posted on Facebook shows man explaining ‘this is how we do it on the mainland’

Hong Kong, China -- An actress-turned-lawyer who exposed bad Buddhists last year has struck again this week, confronting an allegedly fake monk and stopping him from soliciting donations on a street in Tai Po.

Mary Jean Reimer drew attention in October last year for publicising a scandal involving Sik Chi Ding, the abbess of Ting Wai Monastery in Tai Po, who allegedly pocketed millions in donations and was accused of two sham marriages with monks from mainland China for immigration purposes.

In a video on her Facebook page on Wednesday that garnered over 1,200 likes, Reimer confronted a Putonghua-speaking man dressed like a monk who was soliciting money outside Tai Po MTR station.

The man, who claimed he hailed from the famous Shaolin Temple in Henan, presented Reimer a Buddhist identification booklet.

But the practising solicitor said the booklet only identified him as a Wu Jie Ju Shi – a home-based Buddhist believer who adheres to the Five Precepts – instead of a full-fledged monk.

“I am a Wu Jie Ju Shi myself,” said Reimer. “You’re not a monk. You’re a fake.”

Reimer said during the five-minute video the man had breached local law by trying to make money while in the city on a tourist visa.

“Chinese Buddhists do not solicit donations this way,” she said.

The man replied: “This is how we do it on the mainland.”

When the man said he did not know the Great Compassion Mantra, Reimer offered to teach him the mantra, but the man declined and left the scene.

In connection with the Facebook post, Reimer wrote: “First, we should establish a certified Buddhist organisation to safeguard the religion’s image and convince fake monks who wear Buddhist robes and swindle money on the streets to leave.”

She added that the government should enhance its campaign to prevent tourists in Hong Kong from working in the city and that it should consider banning those breaching the law from visiting again.

Martin Cheung Ngai-ping, chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Buddhist Association, said authentic monks in Hong Kong would not roam the streets to collect money because they were supported by the temples with which they were associated.

Cheung said suspect monks began to appear in the city over a decade ago and that the association had been cooperating with law enforcement officials to provide educational materials for the public to better identify official monks.

He added that if people saw monks soliciting money randomly, they should not give them money and could report them to police. He said Reimer’s handling of the allegedly fake monk was correct.