18 members of the Church of Almighty God were arrested in China recently. Source: YouTube screengrab
POLICE in China say they have recently arrested 18 suspected members of the “The Church of Almighty God”, a religious cult linked to a widely-publicised murder of a woman at a McDonald’s restaurant in 2014.
According to national news agency Xinhua on Tuesday, China’s Zhejiang Province said they detained the suspects following an investigation into the cult’s activities, seizing laptops and books used to propagate their beliefs.
Known among Chinese as Quannengshen, the cult gained notoriety as viral videos showing five of its members beating a woman to death at a McDonald’s outlet in the eastern city of Zhaoyuan after she refused to provide her contact number to be recruited.
First appearing in the 1990s, the Christian cult claims Jesus was resurrected as a woman in the form of the wife of its founder Zhao Weishan. Zhao, who is also known as Xu Wenshan, fled with his wife to the United States in September 2000.
Xinhua quoted a police officer from Changxing County, Dong Jianfeng, as saying most of the apprehended suspects showed signs of depression.
“Some of them are divorced and do not seem to know how to vent their suppressed emotions,” Dong said.
“Some of their families have experienced bad accidents and caused them to become depressed.”
Initial investigations revealed the cult is bankrolled by donations from members. The group has previously boasted having more than 500,000 adherents in the past although authorities have yet to confirm the figure.
Police said its members were able to rise up the ranks of the cult if they made bigger donations.
“Every member was willing to donate their money and the amounts ranged from CNY10,000(US$1,481) to tens of thousands of yuan.”
“The cult’s ‘leaders’ imposed spiritual control over the members,” Dong said. “They were told that as long as they gave donations, the Almighty God would keep their illness at bay.”
He added that eight of the detained suspects had denounced their cult beliefs and had been rehabilitated.