SINGAPORE: Twenty-one people were arrested by the police on Monday (Nov 9) for allegedly being members of an unlawful society.
Preliminary investigations showed that the nine men, aged between 22 and 31, and 12 women, aged between 21 and 49, had allegedly re-engaged in activities connected to the unregistered local chapter of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (SCJ), which is based in South Korea, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Another group of nine women, aged between 22 and 52, and two men, aged 23 and 36, are assisting the police with ongoing investigations.
"MHA will not allow members of unlawful societies or persons associated with them to threaten Singapore’s public safety, peace and good order," it said.
The ministry said in February it was investigating the local SCJ chapter’s activities.
As a result of these investigations, five South Korean nationals who were identified to have held key positions in the local chapter were repatriated in February and the group’s front entities were dissolved.
Members of the local chapter were issued warnings to cease further involvement in SCJ activities or face further action from the authorities.
"In spite of the actions taken, the local SCJ chapter has resumed its activities covertly, under the direction of its South Korean parent chapter," said MHA.
"As such, (the Criminal Investigation Department) is investigating members of the local SCJ chapter for potential offences under the Societies Act."
Anyone convicted of being a member of an unlawful society can be jailed for up to three years or fined up to S$5,000, or both.
READ: 'I felt betrayed': University graduate on her experience with Singapore chapter of South Korea’s Shincheonji Church
ACCUSED OF BEING A CULT
The church was at the centre of South Korea's COVID-19 outbreak, with more than 5,200 of the country's total cases linked to it.
Founded by South Korean national Lee Man-Hee in 1984, SCJ has "attracted accusations of being a cult in several countries due to its unorthodox teachings", said MHA.
"Based on testimonies of former members, Lee has claimed to be the second coming of Christ, who would bring 144,000 people to Heaven with him on the Day of Judgement. He has also claimed to be the only person who can interpret the Bible, and SCJ allegedly regards all other churches and pastors as belonging to Satan," said MHA in its press release.
READ: Murder probe sought for South Korea sect at centre of COVID-19 outbreakREAD: South Korea's Shincheonji church says members hit by COVID-19 to give plasma for research
"SCJ teaches that it is acceptable to use deceit and lies if it serves God’s purposes. It has been accused of infiltrating and disrupting established Korean churches by using deception and secrecy to trick people into becoming involved with them."