Murder trial of 5 ‘Almighty God’ cult members begins
Five members of a cult called the Church of Almighty God stood trial on Thursday on charges that they beat a woman to death in a McDonald’s in Shandong province after failing to recruit her into the cult.
The five defendants are Zhang Lidong, 54; his daughters Zhang Fan, 29, and Zhang Hang, 18; and two other women, Lyu Yingchun, 39, and Zhang Qiaolian, 23.
The Yantai People’s Procuratorate charged Zhang Fan, Zhang Lidong and Lyu Yingchun with murder and breaching law enforcement by cult activities.
Zhang Hang and Zhang Qiaolian were charged with murder.
On May 28, 37-year-old Wu Shuoyan was at a McDonald’s in the eastern provincial city of Zhaoyuan when the five suspects approached her. They were attempting to recruit her into a cult called the Church of Almighty God, or Quannengshen. When Wu refused to give them her telephone number, the suspects allegedly beat her repeatedly with a chair and a metal mop handle. An eyewitness’ video of the incident went viral online shortly after the beating took place.
Zhang Lidong, Zhang Fan and Lyu Yingchun denied the charges and a verdict has yet to be announced.
Zhang Fan denied she intentionally killed the victim. At one point during the trial, as she attempted to defend her actions, she smiled. Zhang Lidong also smiled during his testimony.
People who attended the trial said Zhang Hang and Zhang Qiaolian showed repentance in court.
According to media reports, five of Wu’s family members previously filed a lawsuit against the suspects asking for compensation of 4 million yuan ($650,000). Attorneys for Wu’s five family members said the lawsuit has since been withdrawn.
Founded in the 1990s by Zhao Weishan in Henan province, Quannengshen claims that God was resurrected and returned to Earth in the form of Zhao’s wife, Yang Xiangbin.
Zhao is also known as Xu Wenshan. The couple fled to the United States in September 2000.
In late October and early November of 1998, police said robberies and assaults connected with the cult were reported over 12 days in Henan’s Tanghe county. Media reports said many of the victims had their limbs broken and ears cut off in the attacks.
Under China’s Criminal Law, intentional homicide is punishable by 10 years to life in prison and even a death sentece.
Suspects charged with breaching law enforcement by cult activities can be sentenced to at least seven years in prison if the circumstances are serious. Xinhua News Agency contributed to this story. Contact the writers at zhao email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Five members of the Church of Almighty God cult who are accused of beating a woman to death at a McDonald’s restaurant in Zhaoyuan, Shandong province, on May 28 go on trial at Yantai Intermediate People’s Court, Shandong on Thursday.