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Fake Taoist nabbed for selling lucky charms

A MAN'S earnings and possessions were confiscated after he disguised himself as a Taoist and tried to sell supposedly magic products to foreign sailors, the Wusong immigration police said yesterday.

Wearing a Taoist hat, dressed in a gray gown and holding a nearly 1-meter-long sword, the unemployed man, surnamed Liu, claimed he was a Taoist priest and sneaked on to a foreign cargo ship at Wusong Port about 2pm on Saturday.

Police said the man tried to sell artifacts - such as perfumed water, candles and paper money - to Chinese workers on the ship, as Saturday was the traditional Chinese Qingming Festival, when people sweep the tombs of their ancestors and hold memorial services.

Liu then staged a so-called "ghost-catching" performance for foreign sailors, claiming this was Chinese magic. He then tried to sell amulets and good luck charms at prices ranging from US$20 to US$30.

He managed to earn more than US$200 from curious foreign sailors within a few hours, immigration police said.

Cui Jian, a Wusong Port official, said the man insisted he was from the Chinese Taoist Association when being questioned. But he confessed he was lying after police found large quantities of good luck charms in his bags.

Liu allegedly said he intended to cash in on Qingming Festival to sell some charms to Chinese sailors. When business proved slow, he invented the Taoist performance to fool foreign sailors and purchased a costume.

"It's not rare to see vendors sneaking on to ships, but it's the first time for us to see people doing business in such an odd and, more importantly, illegal way," Cui said.

China's laws say no one is allowed to sell any superstitious materials in the country. Liu was fined 50 yuan (US$7.31), police said, and had his earnings confiscated.


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