China Sentences Accused Cult Leader to 4-Year Term

Associated Press/July 1, 2014

Beijing -- A leader of a Chinese religious group whose members are accused of beating a woman to death in a McDonald's restaurant was sentenced to four years in prison on Tuesday, an official news agency reported.

Cao Yinhua, 48, was convicted of establishing cult organizations, recruiting people and producing preaching materials, according to the Xinhua News Agency. It said she was sentenced by a district court in the central city of Wuhan, where court officials were unavailable to confirm the case.

Xinhua said Cao became a regional leader of an illegal group called Quannengshen, or "All-powerful Spirit," in early 2013. It is also known as the Church of Almighty God, and claims that Jesus Christ has returned to earth as a Chinese woman.

Six members of the group are accused of beating a woman to death at a McDonald's in eastern China in May after she refused to tell them her phone number as part of a recruitment drive.

Xinhua gave no indication Cao's sentence was connected to that attack. It said police caught her in October and found 20 books, 53 pamphlets, 49 discs and six computers that included Quannengshen material in her backpack and at places where the group gathered.

China's communist leaders have struggled to control grassroots spiritual movements, most notably the Falun Gong meditation movement that attracted millions of adherents before being suppressed in 1999.

After the McDonald's beating death, authorities said they rounded up more than 1,500 cult members.

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