BEIJING • A Chinese qigong celebrity who claimed to be able to conjure snakes from thin air and cure the sick has been held by police on suspicion of kidnapping and murder.
Reports yesterday said Wang Lin, who gained fame and political admirers through his skills in martial arts, was being held over the death of businessman Zou Yong.
It is the latest drama in the colourful life of a man who previously threatened a reporter with death for questioning his powers - which include allegedly retrieving an incinerated banknote intact from an orange. He gained fame two years ago when images of his feats were posted online, along with pictures of him posing with celebrities.
The self-proclaimed healer was reportedly visited by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba's founder Jack Ma, for reasons unknown.
Pictures also circulated on Chinese social media of Wang with former railways minister Liu Zhijun (who was convicted of corruption and given a suspended death sentence), martial arts star Jet Li and various senior officials.
Reports described Zou as a "disciple" of Wang's. Both are from the central province of Jiangxi, where Zou was a local legislator in Jiangxi.
The businessman previously said he had given Wang five million yuan (S$1 million), "several sports cars and 20 kilograms of gold" to teach him taiji, the Global Times stated, citing reports. But Zou turned against his teacher in 2012 after he made persistent requests for money. "Since then, Zou had been revealing Wang's alleged fraudulent behaviour to media and the authorities. Wang had denied Zou's allegations," the paper added.
Zou was kidnapped and killed last week, Xinhua said, adding that police in Jiangxi detained two suspects on Tuesday. Wang and another suspect were held on Thursday.
The Beijing News reported that Zou's body had been chopped up and thrown into a lake.
The same newspaper ran an interview with Wang in 2013 which questioned his self-proclaimed powers.
The newspaper suggested he had mastered sleight of hand rather than the supernatural, infuriating Wang so much that he telephoned the writer to curse her. "I am telling you, you will die miserably, and your family will follow," the Beijing News quoted him as saying about the reporter in a follow-up article.