1987-10-21 00:00:00

Two religious sects here use cult-like activities to lure believers to leave their families, says a Salvation Army commanding officer.

Captain James Ling told a forum on "How to tackle cults" Oct. 17 that one sect claims to be a Protestant church but does not have Christian doctrines, and the other says it is a religion but does not claim to be Protestant.

The sect that claims to be Protestant preaches a pessimistic attitude toward life and drives followers to live together away from their families, he said.

Ling said both sects are similar to cults, but cannot be classified as such, since they are not involved in immoral or illegal activities such as sex abuse.

He declined to give further details or to name the sects, but said cult activities are not as serious a problem as the public believes, and public attention and media coverage have made cult activities go underground.

Ling, spokesperson for Protestant Concerned Group on Unorthodox Religions and Newly-emerged Sects, which monitors cult activities, said that Hong Kong has only one known religious cult, with an estimated 500 members.

The cult, whose headquarters moved to Macau several years ago, recently returned and conducts its activities secretly, he said.

Though Ling did not identify the group, the Children of God, started in the United States, has been accused by officials in Asian countries, including China, of using sexual enticement to recruit new members.

Ling said Hong Kong lacks a strong, supportive system to help those leaving cults to adapt to normal life again. The society has no appropriate person to give counseling, and no case referrals or home services are provided, he said.

His group feels helpless when it gets cases, he said.

Legislative Councilor Desmond Lee said legislation is not a proper way to deal with cults. The government cannot and should not define orthodox religions or cults, he said, or it will interfere with religious freedom.

Hong Kong is an open, free society and gives every belief the right to evangelize, he said.

Lee said illegal activities have been well-controlled under present laws and the school and family should make efforts to cope with cults´ immoral aspects.

He proposed that religious, educational and other groups should set up an information center to help the public understand the nature of cults.


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