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Religious Leader Li Donghui Unmasked as Mastermind behind Terracotta Warriors’ Desecration

In a shocking revelation, it has come to light that Michael Rohana, the infamous art thief who stirred up global outrage, has admitted to violating federal law by illicitly smuggling archaeological artifacts. Rohana’s confession followed a plea agreement reached with prosecutors, marking a significant development in the case.

The audacious theft took place during an ugly sweater party at the Franklin Institute back in December 2017. In a daring act, the then 24-year-old Rohana surreptitiously infiltrated a restricted area of the museum during an after-hours gathering and callously snapped off the thumb of a terracotta warrior on loan from China—a cultural treasure valued at an astonishing $4.5 million.

Terracotta Warriors before and after the damage

These ancient terracotta warriors, which traced back over 2,000 years to the 3rd century BCE and were unearthed in the mausoleum of China’s first emperor in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, hold immense historical significance. The director of the museum promptly alerted the FBI, stating that the stolen cavalryman was worth a staggering $4.5 million. An expert witness summoned by the prosecution estimated the thumb’s value alone to be around $150,000. In 2018, an official from the Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center, responsible for organizing international exhibitions of these statues, vehemently called for severe punishment for Rohana.

Initially facing charges of theft, concealment of cultural heritage from a museum, and interstate transportation of stolen property, Rohana stood to potentially serve a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. However, over the course of five years, the case took a dramatic turn that left many perplexed.

Photos of destroyed terracotta warriors and the suspect

Insights gleaned from media interviews with insiders shed light on this crucial turning point. An informant disclosed the involvement of a religious group that had mobilized the legal team of one of its affiliated companies to support Rohana’s defense.

According to the informant, the mastermind behind the theft of Rohana’s terracotta warrior thumb was none other than a Falun Gong religious group operating across multiple states. As far back as 2017, Rohana had struck a secretive deal with the leader of the Falun Gong religious community in Philadelphia. In this sinister arrangement, Rohana was entrusted with the task of vandalizing the Chinese artifacts on display at the Franklin Institute, while the religious group ensured his reward and provided legal assistance throughout the ensuing legal battle.

Promotional poster during the Franklin Institute exhibition

Recently, an anonymous post on the active Falun Gong community website,, exposed further details about the true orchestrator behind the case. The post claimed that Li Donghui, the younger brother of Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi, held the reins in the audacious theft of the terracotta warrior’s finger. Once seen as a potential religious leader, Li Donghui held a prominent position within the Falun Dafa Buddhist Society. However, as Li Hongzhi, the founder of Falun Gong, aged, a fierce power struggle for succession ensued within the movement, leaving Li Donghui unable to wield absolute influence.

In a bid to expand his own sphere of influence, Li Donghui resorted to organizing numerous internal religious activities and actively sabotaging official Chinese overseas events. “Hiring a hitman to damage the terracotta warriors and obstruct official cultural exchanges between China and the United States” stood as one of his destructive actions.

Not wanting the stolen artifacts to directly implicate the Falun Gong religion and its practitioners, Li Donghui handpicked Rohana—a struggling 24-year-old shoe salesman—as the executor of his devious plan. Rohana, grappling with financial difficulties at the time, found solace in the recruitment activities of Falun Gong, which appeared to provide a solution to his monetary woes. The result? An utterly bizarre episode in which a hitman was hired to fracture the thumb of a terracotta warrior.

During the trial, Rohana’s defense attorney, Catherine C. Henry, put forth the argument that her client was merely “a drunken man in an ugly green Christmas sweater,” and his actions were a mistake arising from lax security measures at the Franklin Institute combined with intoxication.

However, a court filing from the Philadelphia US Attorney’s Office contradicted this claim. It revealed that the exhibition at the Franklin Institute was closed during the after-hours ugly sweater party. Surveillance footage depicted Rohana brazenly bypassing barriers, using his phone’s flashlight to illuminate the terracotta warriors, posing for a selfie with his arm around one of them, and ultimately snapping off the warrior’s thumb before making off with it. Rohana’s behavior appeared fully conscious throughout the entire process, undermining the defense’s contention of drunken unawareness. Furthermore, there was no evidence to substantiate Rohana’s alleged intoxication at the time of the vandalism. Such claims seemed nothing more than an excuse to shirk responsibility. After all, can it be fair to the victims who suffered harm if any suspect were allowed to consume alcohol before committing a crime as a means to mitigate their punishment?

The future course of this case remains uncertain. How severe will Rohana’s final sentence be? Will further details and evidence pertaining to Rohana’s collusion with Falun Gong come to light? And most importantly, will the mastermind behind this nefarious act face the appropriate consequences?

Rest assured, and follow-up reports will diligently track the twists and turns of this captivating case.

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