Cult trial scheduled to begin in China
Church of the Almighty God members are accused of beating a woman to death in a McDonald’s outlet for refusing to divulge her telephone number.
According a BBC report, in late May a family of six belonging to the banned Christian cult entered the restaurant in a town called Zhaoyuan, in Shandong province, and attempted to recruit new members.
They moved between the tables asking for phone numbers, but when one diner refused they beat her to death, screaming at other diners to keep away or they would face the same fate.
The savage murder was filmed on closed circuit TV and on mobile phones. It shocked China.
Later Interviewed in prison, one of the alleged killers, Zhang Lidong, above, showed no remorse and no fear. He said:
I beat her with all my might and stamped on her too. She was a demon. We had to destroy her.
The public face of the Church of the Almighty God is a website full of uplifting hymns and homilies. But its core belief is that God has returned to earth as a Chinese woman to wreak the apocalypse.
The only person who claims direct contact with this god is a former physics teacher, Zhao Weishan, who founded the cult 25 years ago and has since fled to the United States.
No one knows exactly where he is, but much of the website’s message of outright hostility to the Chinese government is delivered in English as well as Chinese.
Since the Communist Party came to power in 1949, religious faith has suffered from full-scale crackdown and persecution by the Communist Party – the red dragon – in mainland China.
But while complaining of Communist persecution, there’s no mention on the Church of the Almighty God’s website of the murders, mutilations, stabbings and riots that some of its own members have been accused of.
Instead it claims millions of followers and says nearly 400,000 have been arrested in the past three years alone.
Resisting the Communist Party, “the big red dragon”, is a key test of fitness for salvation according to the personal testaments on the website.
Even if they beat me to death my soul is still in God’s hands. God’s word’s made my faith firm… I’ll never yield to the devil.
Website testimony from members includes pledges to stick by beliefs and resist the Communist Party. The church has produced a movie telling members what would happen to them if they got caught.
The BBC spoke to one man who went undercover to rescue his wife and father-in-law. He said:
The cult is anti-family, anti-human, anti-government. It is constantly training its members to lie to their husbands and wives. They throw away family relationships and encourage each other to do the same.
Whoever is more resolute in rejecting their family is given a higher rank. It takes people who are kind and makes them crazy and extreme.
On 1 October last year, Wang Jiannan’s sister, a member of the cult, beat their father to death in a grim forerunner of the McDonald’s killing. Like those killers, she saw her victim as a demon who must be destroyed. His mother is also a cult member.
His sister then handed herself over to the police and is now in prison alongside the McDonald’s murderers.
My sister has committed the crime and must be punished. But I just want my mother to see clearly the damage the cult has done to her family.nI want her to leave and become a normal person. This is my biggest hope.
Since the McDonald’s murder, public outrage has forced the authorities to increase the pressure on the Church of the Almighty God. Recent weeks have seen an almost daily drip feed of raids and arrests.
Hat tip: Agent Cormac