Nine members of the “Church of Almighty God” were sentenced to prison by a court in Hubei province, Xinhua reported today, citing local authorities. The members will serve between 18 months and three years after being convicted of “undermining the implementation of laws by making use of cult organizations”.
Police confiscated 422 books, 1,047 leaflets, 283 video clips and thousands of other photo and text files promoting the banned cult, known in Chinese as Quannengshen.
Five other members of the same cult had been given two- to three-year jail sentences for spreading propaganda at a Liaoning province court on Saturday, Xinhua added.
Followers of Almighty God, formed in the 1990s, believe that Jesus had been reincarnated as a woman named Yang Xiangbin—the wife of the cult’s founder Zhao Weishan. Members of the cult have been accused of brainwashing their followers.
The cult made headlines last year when five of its members brutally beat a woman to death at a McDonald’s restaurant in Shandong province after she refused to give them her phone number during a recruitment attempt.
Two of the members, Zhang Lidong and his daughter Zhang Fan, were executed in February for their involvement in the crime, while three other members were given jail sentences ranging from seven years to life in prison.
In a previous interview with CCTV, Zhang Lidong said that the victim “is the devil and evil spirits. We had to beat her to death. We don’t consider or fear laws. We only believe in God.”
The disturbing case led to a nationwide crackdown on religious cults in China to show that measures have been taken to stop the religious sects.