HONG KONG — Two members of a Chinese cult called ‘Church of Almighty God’ have been sentenced to death for allegedly murdering a woman at a fast food restaurant when she refused to participate in their recruitment efforts.
Zhang Fan and her father Zang Lidong learned of their punishment in Yantai Intermediate People’s Court in Shandong on Saturday. Three others also faced sentencing—one receiving life in prison, another ten years behind bars and the third receiving a seven-year prison term.
According to reports, members of the group had been stationed outside of McDonalds in Zhaoyuan last May in an attempt to collect phone numbers from patrons. However, when Wu Shuoyan, 37, who was at the restaurant with her seven-year-old son refused to provide her phone number, Fan became upset and called her an “evil spirit.” She then allegedly hit Shuoyan in the head with a chair, and when she fell to the ground, Fan began stomping on her head.
Lidong then struck the woman with a mop handle, hitting her so hard that it broke. He likewise stomped Shuoyan’s head and kicked it. Lidong was interviewed in prison about the matter and admitted to his actions.
“I beat her with all my might and stamped on her, too,” he said. “She was a demon. We had to destroy her.”
Between the two physical assaults, Shuoyan died of her injuries. Neither Fan or Lidong has expressed any remorse for their actions.
“My daughter said she took one look and saw she was no good,” Lidong told reporters earlier this year.
“Church of Almighty God” or “Eastern Lightning,” is a charismatic religious organization that strongly opposes the current Chinese regime. Founded in the 1980’s, Church of Almighty God believes that Jesus Christ has already returned, and that He has come back in the form of a woman. The woman, who is stated to be Christ incarnate, purportedly lives in central China. The cult was banned in the nation in 1995, and its founder, Zhao Weishan, is stated to have fled to the United States.
As previously reported, hundreds of members of the group were detained two years ago for distributing literature that promoted the Mayan claim that the world would end on December 21, 2012.
“Dec. 21 is approaching, and on that day half of the world’s good people will die, and all evil people will die out,” one pamphlets read. “[O]nly if you join the Almighty God movement can you avoid death and be saved.”
Bob Fu of the Texas-based organization China Aid told Christian News Network at that time that “Church of Almighty God” has been known for using force both on Christians and against the Chinese government. He outlined that Christians have been brainwashed and even tortured for their beliefs.
Dennis Green of Life and Liberty Ministries near Richmond, Virginia agreed. He has been serving as a missionary to China for nearly the past decade.
“They can be violent,” he told Christian News Network on Sunday. “They have been known to kidnap Christians and brainwash them. Some have had their tongues cut out.”
Green said that he personally knows a man whose wife was pulled into the cult many years ago. Her whereabouts remain unknown.
“She was a Christian wife and mother of two small children,” he explained. “She was not heard from for a number of months and then turned up for a short time. She then disappeared and hasn’t been heard from for several years.”
“The greatest defense a believer can have against this cult, as well as others, is to know the Scriptures,” Green said.