BEIJING -- A dozen Chinese teenagers have been caught in a failed plot to sneak into Canada by masquerading as kung fu masters from the famous Shaolin Temple, state media reported Friday.
The 12 had no martial arts experience but joined a team of genuine kung fu performers from a school in Henan province, also home to the 1,500-year-old temple, that was leaving for a tour of Canada, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
They had paid up to $90,000 each to a human smuggler, or "snakehead," and two coaches from the martial arts school who often accompany students on trips abroad, Xinhua said.
The teenagers, ages 17 to 19, had a one-day training session at a hotel on June 24 to learn the basics of the art of Chinese lion dancing, Xinhua said.
The group was stopped less than a week later while trying to enter Hong Kong after border guards' suspicions were aroused, but the report did not give any details.
Xinhua quoted a policeman in Changle, a city in eastern China's Fujian province from which the alleged bogus kung fu masters originally came, as saying the Shaolin Temple had been an innocent victim of the conspirators.
"The Shaolin Temple had nothing to do with it," Xinhua quoted the officer, identified by his surname, Wang, as saying.
The teens and the two coaches were detained and returned to Fujian for interrogation, the agency said. The smuggler was arrested Monday after six weeks on the run.
The Shaolin Temple has fought hard against those it sees as exploiting its name for martial arts schools, performances, movies and consumer products.
In recent years, it has set up a corporation, Henan Shaolin Temple Industrial Development Ltd., and trademarked the names "Shaolin" and "Shaolin Temple."