Mentuhui cult members sentenced in crackdown
Prison terms have been handed down to several members of the Mentuhui group (Disciples Sect) for organizing a cult and causing deaths, according to the central leading group for the prevention and handling of cult-related activities on Tuesday.
The Mentuhui, with tens of thousands of followers, has spread pseudoscience and evil thoughts under the guise of Christianity, according to the leading group.
Mentuhui was classified as a cult by the government in the 1990s.
Yao Xiangzhi, 35, a member of the group, was sentenced for causing the death of a cult member surnamed Xu, who suffered from schizophrenia. Xu was denied freedom, as well as food and drinks for a week, while other members prayed for his recovery in June 2015 in Jianli county, Hubei province.
Yao, who only completed primary school, was sentenced to three years in prison for organizing and taking advantage of a cult and causing death. She is serving her sentence in Wuhan.
“It is a sham to treat any illness by praying to expel evil spirits,” said a cult member who has serious rheumatism.
The cult accumulated more than 40 million yuan ($6 million) between 2011 and 2014 through donations and businesses including supermarkets, said Yu Shaochao, deputy police chief of Yunxi county, Hubei.
The group never deposited money in banks but kept cash in the hands of its leaders, who often took the money for their personal use, Yu said.
Xu Tao, a religion scholar at Wuhan University, said the government should let religious people play a role in fighting cults, as they are most sensitive and can help prevent their formation at early stages.