Two members of a radical religious cult who beat a woman to death in a McDonald’s restaurant after she refused to join them will be executed under a court order.
Zhang Fan, 29, and her father Zhang Lidon, 55, were given the death sentence on Saturday, following trial at the Yantai Intermediate People’s Court in Shandong, eastern China, state media have reported.
Both are members of the banned “All-powerful Spirit” cult in China, also known as the Church of Almighty God, which believes Jesus has been resurrected as a Chinese woman who is also the founder’s wife.
Together with three fellow cult members they were found guilty of murdering 37-year-old Wu Shuoyan who they claimed was an “evil spirit” after she allegedly refused to give them her telephone number.
They attacked her with mops and chairs before stamping on her during the attack at a fast food outlet in Zhaoyuan, Shandong province, on May 28.
Lu Yingchun, 39, another member of the murderous gang, was handed a life sentence while two others, Zhang Hang and Zhang Qiaolian, received 10 and seven years respectively. All three also faced cult related charges.
It is understood a 12-year-old was also tried in relation to the murder in a separate court, although more details have yet to emerge.
The attack was dubbed “extremely cruel” by court officials after they heard the five-strong gang had forbidden anyone in the fast food restaurant from intervening to stop the violent attack.
During the trial, which began in August, Fan, Lidon and Yingchun told the court they had acted in self-defence after they were attacked by the “demon’s supernatural powers”.
All death sentences handed out by trial courts must be reviewed by China’s supreme court.
The cult was banned by in China after it called for a battle to defeat the “Red Dragon” – referring to the ruling communist party. It is one of 14 cults that have been listed as illegal in the country.
Aalso known as the Quannengshen group, its founder Zhao Weisha is understood to have fled to the United States of America in September 2000.
Additional reporting by Associated Press and ReutersReuse content