Immigration Department officers arrested four people on Wednesday at Ting Wai monastery in Tai Po, after accusations surfaced that its chief nun Sik Chi-ding was involved in two cases of bogus marriages and embezzlement.

The scandal was revealed by lawyer and director of Ting Wai Monastery Mary Jean Reimer, who said that Sik had been mismanaging the funds and that she had married two mainland monks, Apple Daily reported.

It was said that Sik had married the two monks so as to assist them in obtaining residency in Hong Kong. HK$500,000 in funds were reported to be missing and Reimer asked Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah to look into the accounts. A spokesperson from Tsang’s office said that they had received the letter and would be investigating.

mainland monks
The two mainland monks that Sik had been accused of marrying.

As senior police officers were involved in the scandal, Reimer said, she would not be reporting the matter to the police at this point in time, as “it would not be of much use”. She said that she had seen Sik leaving the monastery in a luxury car with a senior officer. The names of the officers were not disclosed, although Apple Daily reported that according to a Companies Registry search, Senior Inspector Leung Lai-yiu had served as a director of the monastery.

Sik and a male monk were arrested for making false declarations in legal documents, while two other women, one of them a domestic helper, were arrested on suspicion of overstaying and aiding and abetting another to breach conditions of stay. The officers also took away identification documents and computers.

sik chi ding
Sik Chi-ding.

Karmen Tam Kok-shan, senior officer at the Immigration Department, said they were looking into the accusations of sham marriages and investigating the individuals involved. It was possible that more would be arrested, she said. However, she could not reveal any further details at this point in time, Oriental Daily reported.

Sik posted a notice at the entrance of the monastery on Tuesday, saying that the police and relevant departments have been informed about the affair and have launched an investigation. Sik said that she reserved the right to pursue legal action with regards to defamatory or false statements made.

Sik, in an interview with Apple Daily in July, claimed that she had turned down hundreds of millions of dollars offered by developers who were interested in the land. She also said that the monastery needed funds for conservation work. Reimer then launched a crowdfunding campaign online and raised around HK$1.3 million.

Lawyer Leung Wing-hang told Apple Daily that there were no laws in Hong Kong prohibiting monks and nuns from marrying, and that religious organisations were self-regulatory.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.