A national crackdown on religious cults has been announced in an attempt to reassure the public following the brutal killing of a 23-year-old mother at a McDonald’s in Shandong carried out by alleged cult members. More than 1,500 cult members have been detained with prison terms being handed out to at least 59 members, the Associated Press reported, citing the official Xinhua News Agency. Reports regarding the figures of detention appear to have been released following the Shandong attack to assure the public that things are being done to stop the religious sects.
The detainees are allegedly from two groups, Church of Almighty God, responsible for the recent McDonald’s beating, and the Disciples Sect. Both draw on “unorthodox readings of Christianity”. According to reports, some members were given terms of up to four years on charges of “using a cult organisation to undermine enforcement of the law” and others for using violent and illegal measures in a bid to expand their organisation.
The public security bureau in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region said it had detained more than 800 members of the Quannengshen (“Almighty God”) cult and 580 members of the Mentuhui (“Disciples Sect”) cult since 2012, according to Xinhua News Agency.
Police in Liaoning province have arrested 113 key members of Quannengshen since last year.
The crackdown continues in the provinces of Anhui, Hunan, Jiangsu, Guangdong, Henan and Shaanxi, as well as in the Xinjiang Uygur and Inner Mongolia autonomous regions.
The alleged ring leader of Church of Almighty God, Zhang Lidong, is now in a detention house in ZhaoYuan, Shandong Province after he and a group of adherents were videotaped beating a Shandong woman to death on the belief that she was “a demon”.
Below shows an interview, conducted by CCTV, where Lidong explaining his reasons for killing the woman.
The government has reportedly tried to contain such groups with
little avail as China is thought to have about 20 active cults groups in circulation. Dai Peng, director of the criminal investigation department at People’s Public Security University of China in Beijing said “the crackdown in different regions is an active response to public concern about their security and doesn’t reflect the increase of cult activities”.
By Sophie Regan