Chinese “Evil-Spirit Killers” of the Church of the Almighty God Go on Trial This Thursday

On May 28, a group of five Jesus-besotted proselytizers walked into a McDonald’s restaurant in Zhaoyuan, China and began asking customers for their phone numbers. When a 37-year-old woman declined to provide that information, the five, deciding on the spot that she was an “evil spirit,” beat her to death with chairs and a metal broom handle — in front of her seven-year-old son. Other customers caught the attack on cell-phone cameras.

The killers, who will stand trial on Thursday, belong to a cult that calls itself the Church of the Almighty God, otherwise known as Eastern Lightning, which is reported to have millions of members.

This is their creed:

The followers believe that the biblical God has returned to earth as a woman named Yang Xiangbin “born to an ordinary family in the northern part of China” in order to guide mankind for the third and final time. According to the group, the first and second times of active guidance of mankind were as Yahweh of the Old Testament and as Jesus in the New Testament.

[Yang Xiangbin’s] most widely distributed book, The Word Appears in the Flesh, proclaims itself the Word of God. The book claims the first coming of Christ was to redeem humanity, while the second is to judge and purify mankind and defeat Satan. It also claims that those who do not accept her words will receive severe punishment when the judgment ends.

Or before, if the cult members happen to feel a little murdery.

According to BBC News,

The only person who claims direct contact with this god is a former physics teacher, Zhao Weishan, who founded the cult 25 years ago and has since fled to the United States. No one knows exactly where he is, but much of the website’s message of outright hostility to the Chinese government is delivered in English as well as Chinese.

It states: “Since the Communist Party came to power in 1949, religious faith has suffered from full-scale crackdown and persecution by the Communist Party — the red dragon — in mainland China.” Of course it’s true that until the late 1970s, Communist China did persecute all religious faith, and even now allows it only within strict guidelines.

The Chinese government (which, it must be noted, is not above exaggerating domestic threats and putting on show trials) says the Church of the Almighty God is responsible for a string of violence, including murders, mutilations, stabbings, riots, kidnappings, and torture. Authorities have dubbed the group, along with 13 other religious organizations including the much more peaceful Falun Gong, “evil cults.”

That designation brings its own set of problems, heralding human-rights violations. Said Maya Wang, a Hong-Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch,

“The McDonald’s killing was terrible, and I think the people should be held accountable. But then the government has subsequently gone after members of Eastern Lightning for organizing activities that weren’t against the law.”

Another source, a man with family members in the Church of the Almighty God, claims that the group is

“… anti-family, anti-human, anti-government. It is constantly training its members to lie to their husbands and wives. They throw away family relationships and encourage each other to do the same. Whoever is more resolute in rejecting their family is given a higher rank. It takes people who are kind and makes them crazy and extreme.

Well, for a religious group, that certainly is unusual. </sarcasm>

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