Two members of an "evil" cult executed for beating a woman to death
Beijing (AsiaNews) - The Yantai Intermediate People's Court in the eastern province of Shandong announced that two members of an "evil" cult were executed for killing a woman at a McDonald's restaurant in May of last year.
Zhang Lidong and his daughter Zhang Fan were members of the Church of the Almighty God, a group banned in mainland China for being anti-Communist.
In an attempt to proselytise, the two Zhangs along with other faithful tried to recruit Wu Shuoyan at the restaurant in Zhaoyuan. When she refused to give her phone number, they began insulting her and eventually beat her to death.
Right after the murder, police arrested hundreds of members of the cult. Combining elements of Taoism and Christianity, with apocalyptic beliefs about the pending end of the world and that Jesus Christ was reincarnated in a woman.
Last October, the two Zhangs were sentenced to death. Three other cult members were given sentences, ranging from seven years to life in prison (pictured).
It is worth noting that the death penalty was based not only on the murder conviction, but also on the fact that the accused "used a cult to intentionally break the law".
Under Chinese law, the state claims the power to differentiate "evil cults" from "recognised religions," which are allowed on condition of being subordinate to state control.
For several years, various scholars and lawmakers have called for a new law that would guarantee religious freedom. Although it would curtail state power in religious matters, it would still preserve the authorities' right to prosecute in case of criminal acts.
Speaking to AsiaNews, a Christian in Yantai noted that the diocese's own underground bishop, Mgr Gao Kexian, was killed in 2005.
Mgr Gao had been arrested in October 1999 and held at an undisclosed location in northern China. Later, his body was returned to his family without any explanation. He was 81. No inquiry was conducted into his death.
If "President Xi Jinping wants to build the rule of law in China," said the faithful, "why does he not investigate the death of our bishop?"