China court gives death penalty to two cult members

A Chinese court on Saturday sentenced two members of a banned Christian cult to death for "brutally" murdering a woman at a McDonalds outlet in Shandong province in May.

PTI| Updated: Oct 11, 2014, 18:30 PM IST

Beijing: A Chinese court on Saturday sentenced two members of a banned Christian cult to death for "brutally" murdering a woman at a McDonalds outlet in Shandong province in May.

The two were among five cult members who killed a 37-year-old women named Wu for refusing to give her phone number to the members.

While the main accused Zhang Fan and Zhang Lidong were sentenced to death, the other three members were given varied prison terms.

The two other cult members Zhang Hang and Zhang Qiaolian were sentenced to ten and seven years in prison respectively, and Lyu Yingchun, an accomplice, was given a life sentence by the Shandong's Yantai Intermediate People's Court.

The four Zhangs are relatives, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

According to the court, the five "brutally murdered" Wu, and three of them were fully aware of the nature of quannengshen (almighty god).

The video of the murder which went viral all over world sent shock waves as the woman, accompanied by her little son, was virtually stamped to death in a frenzy by the five member group.

Zhang Fan and Lyu then "identified" Wu as an "evil spirit," and used a chair to bludgeon Wu's head.

After she fell to the ground, Zhang trampled her face and head, repeatedly jumping up and down on her while asking other cult members present to partake. The assault ended in Wu's death, the court statement said.

Lyu also prevented McDonald's staff from rescuing her and alerting the police, it said.

Zhang Fan, Zhang Lidong and Lyu Yingchun were also charged for breaching the law through cult activities, besides being deprived of political rights for life by the court.

The Almighty God cult has been banned in China, but it still held secret rallies, created and spread cult information and enlisted new members, or helped carry out the aforementioned acts, which breached the law, the court said.

First coming to light in the 1990s in central Henan Province, quannengshen claims that Jesus has been resurrected as Yang Xiangbin, wife of the sect's founder Zhao Weishan, also known as Xu Wenshan.

The sect has been widely criticized for using rumors to confuse people and coercing others to join the cult.