The Curious Rise of Scientology in Taiwan

Jul 31, 2016

By Benjamin Carlson

At the end of 2013, in the low-slung, industrial Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung, a bevy of officials came to attend the ribbon cutting of a huge former hotel that had undergone a top-to-bottom, multimillion-dollar renovation. Speaking before the throngs of celebrants who blocked the flow of traffic, Taiwan’s deputy director of the Ministry of the Interior praised the group that funded the renovation and presented them, for the 10th year straight, with the national “Excellent Religious Group” award.

“For years you have dedicated your time and lives to anti-drug work and human- rights dissemination,” said the director, echoing praise offered by the mayor’s office and the president’s national-policy adviser.

The name on the award was the same as the one newly blazoned in steel letters across the building’s façade, the same as the one that flanked the building in a gigantic vertical banner, a name that elsewhere might draw stares but in Taiwan has drawn government praise: SCIENTOLOGY.

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