Chinese police have arrested “nearly a thousand” suspected members of the illegal Quannengshen cult, or the Church of Almighty God, according to the Ministry of Public Security.
The suspects, all seized since June, are allegedly involved in more than 500 cases. Among them are nearly 100 “high-level organizers and backbone members,” the ministry said. Five members of the cult have already been charged with intentional homicide for the killing of a woman at a McDonald’s outlet in Shandong province in May.
The cult members murdered the woman after she refused to give her telephone number to them for recruiting purposes.
The murder trial is set to open on Thursday.
The Quannengshen group, which originated in central Henan province, believes that Jesus was resurrected as Yang Xiangbin, wife of the sect’s founder, Zhao Weishan.
Zhao is also known as Xu Wenshan, according to Xinhua. The couple fled to the United States in September 2000. In 2012, China launched a crackdown on the group after it called for a “decisive battle” to slay the “Red Dragon” Communist Party, and preached that the world would end that year.
Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin launched a campaign in 1999 to crush the Falun Gong religious group, banning it as an “evil cult” after thousands of practitioners staged a surprise but peaceful sit-in outside the leadership compound in Beijing to demand official recognition of their movement.
Report compiled with information from Reuters and Xinhua.