Mur­der trial of 5 ‘Almighty God’ cult mem­bers be­gins

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHAO RUIXUE in Ji­nan and HOU LIQIANG in Bei­jing

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 ruixue@chi­nadaily.com.cn and houliqiang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

PHOTO BY XIN­HUA

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.

Zhang Jian­guo,

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