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August 22, 2014

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Smiles in court as 5 face charges of killing woman in McDonald’s

FIVE members of a banned religious group appeared in court yesterday charged with the murder of a woman beaten to death in a McDonald’s restaurant after she refused to give them her cellphone number when they apparently tried to recruit her.

Zhang Fan, 30, her father Zhang Lidong, 55, her sister Zhang Hang, 18, Lu Yingchun, 39, and Zhang Qiaolian, 24, all members of the Quannengshen (Almighty God) sect, were charged with murder. Zhang Fan, Zhang Lidong and Lu were also charged with illegal cult activities.

Yantai Intermediate People’s Court in east China’s Shandong Province heard that on May 28 at a McDonald’s in Zhaoyuan City, the five were trying to recruit new members.

Zhang Hang approached Wu Shuoyan, 37, and asked for her mobile phone number. Wu told her to go away, and this enraged the teenager, who shouted: “You are not good. You are evil,” and threw a chair at her.

Video footage showed that Zhang Lidong, 55, then hit Wu with a stick and the others joined in the attack. They beat her so severely that a steel mop was broken. After Wu collapsed to the ground, they jumped on her and kicked her, using the broken mop to hit her on the head.

In an interview with CCTV after his arrest, Zhang Lidong said: “She 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.”

Wu died despite emergency treatment. The five were caught by police at the scene and formally arrested on June 2.

In court yesterday, Zhang Lidong appeared calm and smiled from time to time. His elder daughter Zhang Fan denied murdering the woman and she smiled too when she addressed the court, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The facts are clear and there is plenty of evidence,” Gao Cheng, a lawyer for the murdered woman’s family, was quoted as saying by the People’s Daily website. The accused had shown no sign of repentance and so should be severely punished, Gao said.

The court heard that Zhang Lidong had made a fortune as a pharmaceutical wholesaler. Nine years ago, Zhang Fan joined Quannengshen when she was 21. Under her influence, her father Zhang Lidong also joined.

The family had moved from Wuji County in north China’s Hebei Province to Zhaoyuan seven years ago, CCTV said.

Shandong-based Qilu Evening News said Lu was Zhang Lidong’s mistress. But the connection between Zhang Qiaolian, 24, also a Wuji native, and the family is not known.

Lawyers for Wu’s family told the court yesterday that they had decided not to file a civil action against the five. According to news portal, the family had planned to ask for compensation more than 4 million yuan (US$650,000).

The trial ended with the court saying a verdict would be announced at a later date.

Emerging in the 1990s in central China’s Henan Province, the Quannengshen group believes Jesus was resurrected as Yang Xiangbin, wife of the sect’s founder, Zhao Weishan.

Zhao is also known as Xu Wenshan, Xinhua reported, adding that the couple fled to the United States in September 2000.

In late October and early November 1998, robberies and assaults connected with the cult were reported over 12 days in Henan’s Tanghe County, with victims’ limbs broken and ears cut off.

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.

Chinese authorities have arrested nearly 1,000 members of Quannengshen in the latest of a series of official moves against the banned group.


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