China put on trial five members of a banned religious group on Thursday for the murder of a woman who was beaten to death at a McDonald’s after police say she refused to give them her telephone number when the group apparently tried to recruit her.
China has sentenced dozens of followers of Quannengshen, or the Church of Almighty God, since the murder of the woman in May in the eastern province of Shandong.
The five are charged not only with murder, but with illegal cult activities, according to the court in Shandong’s Yantai city.
The court’s official microblog carried pictures of the five, dressed in orange jackets identifying them as the accused, with about a dozen policemen standing behind them.
“The facts are clear and there is plenty of evidence,” Gao Cheng, the lawyer for the murdered woman’s family, was quoted as saying by the People’s Daily website.
The accused have shown no sign of repentance and so should be severely punished, Gao added.
The court has yet to carry any comments in defence of the accused. It is not clear how long the trial will last, though in China it is typically just a single day. A verdict could then take several weeks to be announced.
Chinese authorities have arrested nearly a thousand members of a banned religious group, state media said this week, the latest in a series of official moves against a group that China has outlawed as an illegal cult.
The Quannengshen group, which originated in central Henan province, believes that Jesus was resurrected as Yang Xiangbin, wife of the sect’s founder, Zhao Weishan, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Zhao is also known as Xu Wenshan, Xinhua said, adding that the couple fled to the United States in September 2000.
In 2012, China launched a crackdown on the group after it called for a “decisive battle” to slay the “Red Dragon” Communist Party, and preached that the world would end that year.
The party brooks no challenge to its rule and is obsessed with social stability. It has cracked down on cults, which have multiplied across the country in recent years. Demonstrations have been put down with force and some sect leaders executed.
Former President Jiang Zemin launched a campaign in 1999 to crush the Falun Gong religious group, banning it as an “evil cult” after thousands of practitioners staged a surprise but peaceful sit-in outside the leadership compound in Beijing to demand official recognition of their movement.
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