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China outraged by cult violence

2014-06-04 10:32 Xinhua Web Editor: Mo Hong'e

The Chinese public are outraged at the slaughter of an innocent woman, beaten to death by six suspected cult members last week.

Five of the six suspects were arrested on Monday for intentional homicide. The other, a minor under 14 years old, will be charged at juvenile criminal court, according to the Zhaoyuan City government, Shandong Province.

The victim, Wu, mother of a seven-year-old boy, was beaten to death around 9 p.m. on May 28 at a McDonald's outlet in the city, apparently after she refused to give her telephone number to a group allegedly trying to recruit new members to their cult. Witnesses said the suspects had called Wu "devil" and "evil spirit" and said they would destroy her while they beat her.

A witness recorded the scene and put the clip online, bringing a firestorm of public rage.

"I was so shocked that I couldn't fall asleep after watching," said Yang Shan, a resident of the provincial capital Jinan. He was even more angry after learning the suspects expressed no regret for what they had done.

Suspect Zhang Lidong, 54, said after he was detained that his act was "the will of God" and he did not regret what he had done. The other suspects include his two daughters, his son, his partner and a friend of his elder daughter.

The six are members of the Quannengshen (almighty god) cult. Appearing in the 1990s in central China's Henan Province, the group claims that Jesus has been resurrected as Yang Xiangbin, wife of the sect's founder Zhao Weishan, also known as Xu Wenshan. The couple fled to the US in September 2000.

The sect has been widely criticized for using rumors to confuse people and coercing others to join the cult. In late October and early November 1998, robberies and assaults connected with the cult were reported over 12 days in Henan's Tanghe County, with victims' limbs broken and ears cut off.

"A stranger was called evil and beaten to death just because she refused to give her phone number? Their crime was unbelievable and incomprehensible," said Yan Xiang, a resident of Wuhan, Hubei Province.

Yan said the crime showed the cult's spiritual control over people, and urged the authorities to severely punish such cults.

Wang Shuli, a national political advisor and expert on religion, said the case has revealed the substance of Quannengshen: inhuman, antisocial and unconstitutional. "It's not religion, but heterodoxy."

He advised authorities to severely punish the criminals, spread scientific knowledge, and expose the cult to the public at large.

Wang Zhongwu, a sociologist with Shandong University, said severe suppression of cults should be maintained to prevent more people from being hurt.

According Chinese law, a cult is an illegal organization that tries to control people by deifying the sect leader, delude members under the guise of religion or in other names and engage in activities that harm society.

Chinese authorities currently list 14 such cults, including Quannengshen.

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