Five cult members accused of beating a woman to death in a McDonald’s restaurant because she refused to join them went on trial in China today.
The members of the “All-powerful Spirit” group, including a man and his two daughters, were accused of hitting the woman with chairs and a metal pole after she refused to give them her phone number. The violence was captured on a mobile phone and was later broadcast on state television.
The “All-powerful Spirit”, also known as “Eastern Lightning”, believes that Jesus was resurrected as a Chinese woman and sees itself in a struggle against the Red Dragon, or the Chinese Communist Party. It is one of 14 cults that China has listed as illegal, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. The crime took place on 28 May at Zhaoyuan in Shandong province, a traditional hotbed for religious sects. The region gave birth to the violent anti-Christian Boxer movement that laid siege to Western interests in Beijing and elsewhere during the waning years of the Qing dynasty in 1900.
The five defendants were accused of murder and three also faced cult-related charges in the one-day trial at Yantai Intermediate People’s Court. A spokesman for the court said a judge would give a verdict at an unspecified later date.
The state broadcaster CCTV said the five defendants had eaten at the McDonald’s on the night of the beating, and that the only male member of the group, Zhang Lidong, asked the victim, Wu Shuoyan, for her telephone number, and she refused. The four women then approached her and asked. Again, she refused, and the group decided that she was the devil, CCTV reported.
They used chairs and other items to beat Ms Wu, while threatening to kill bystanders who might intervene, according to CCTV. Video from a security camera in a corner of the restaurant showed one staff member calling police from a phone on a wall behind the counter. Two of the group members then threw a motorbike helmet at the employee to stop her.
The group continued to beat Ms Wu even when police arrived. Officers subdued the group with the help of others in the restaurant, CCTV said. Ms Wu had severe head injuries and was already dead by the time paramedics arrived.
The five were shown standing calmly in court.