SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Five people went on trial in China on Thursday accused of beating a woman to death in a McDonald’s restaurant after unsuccessfully trying to recruit her to join their Christian cult. The 5 belong to the Church of Almighty God, also known as Eastern Lighting, a group that claims to have millions of members in China, and believes that God has returned to earth in China in the form of a female Christ.
They allegedly tried to recruit the woman in McDonald’s in the eastern city of Zhaoyuan in the evening of May 28. When she refused to give them her phone number, they are accused of beating her to death with chairs, a mop and, when the mop broke, with its metal handle. Footage of the incident from Closed Circuit Television cameras and video taken by other diners went viral at the time.
The woman, a 35-year-old mother of a seven-year-old boy, was waiting for her husband at the restaurant, when she was approached by the group, state media reported. At 9:17 pm, she sent a message on the Wechat social media service saying she had met “some crazy people.” According to surveillance camera footage, the quarrel began at 9:18 and the police arrived a few minutes later, but the woman was pronounced dead outside hospital at 9:45 p.m.
“Eastern Lightning” is believed to have been formed in the early 1990s in China’s central Henan province by a man named Zhao Weishan. According to the official Xinhua news agency, Zhao claimed Jesus had been resurrected as his wife, Yang Xiangbin, but the couple fled to the United States in September 2000. Taking its name from a passage in the biblical gospel of Matthew that refers to lightning in the east and the Second Coming of Christ, it was identified by the Chinese government as an illegal cult in 1995, but still continued to recruit heavily, especially in rural areas.
The group has also been accused of kidnapping people in attempts to convert them. Dozens of online chat groups, each with hundreds of members, have been set up by relatives of cult members, who share stories about how the church has destroyed their families, or simply trying to find loved ones who have left home after joining the group.
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