China has opened the trial of five members of a banned religious group who allegedly beat a woman to death at a McDonald’s restaurant in May after she refused to give them her telephone number when they tried to recruit her, Reuters reported.
One man and four women were charged with murder and illegal cult activities, according to the court records in Yantai city in eastern China’s Shandong province.
The murder, video recordings of which have circulated widely on social media, sparked outraged across the country.
Nearly a thousand followers of Quannengshen, or the Church of Almighty God, have been arrested since.
The accused had shown no sign of repentance and should be severely punished, Gao Cheng, the lawyer for the murdered woman’s family, was quoted as saying by the People’s Daily on its website.
The one-day trial ended by late afternoon, and the court said a verdict would be announced at a later date.
Li Ming, online editor for the state-backed China Anti-Cult Association, told the Sina news portal that China had at least 20 such cults, who had “coerced” millions of people.
“Once you have been brainwashed it’s very hard to get out. Because you have utter belief,” Li was quoted as saying.
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 Xinhua News Agency, 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, Reuters said.
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