2 Members of Sect Executed in China for Deadly Beating at McDonald's

New York Times/February 2, 2015

By Dan Levin

Beijing -- A Chinese court announced on Monday that two members of a banned religious sect had been executed for the death by beating of a woman at a McDonald’s restaurant in May, an episode that was caught by a cellphone camera and sparked outrage across China.

The court, the Yantai Intermediate People’s Court in the eastern province of Shandong, reported the executions of Zhang Lidong and his daughter Zhang Fan in a statement on its official social media account, noting that the two had “committed murder and used a cult to intentionally break the law.” The court did not say when the executions took place.

The Zhangs were members of the Church of Almighty God, a Christian sect that the Chinese government outlawed in 1995 and has labeled an “evil cult.” They had entered the McDonald’s with other members of their church, hoping to recruit followers on the evening of May 28 in the city of Zhaoyuan. At the restaurant, they encountered the victim, Wu Shuoyan, 35, who was waiting for her husband and young son, state television reported during the Zhangs’ trial in August. After Ms. Wu twice declined to give her phone number, the group identified her as an “evil spirit” and attacked her with a chair, mops and a storm of kicks that left her dead in a pool of blood on the floor.

“I beat her with all my might and stomped on her, too,” said an unrepentant Mr. Zhang in an interview from prison that aired on state television. “She was a demon. We had to destroy her.”

The killing was recorded on a cellphone by one of several bystanders who watched the attack but did not intervene. Posted and shared widely online, the video set off a debate about the lack of help from witnesses as well as accusations that the police had been slow to respond.

In October, the Zhangs were convicted and sentenced to death, while three other defendants received sentences of seven years, 10 years and life in prison. The executions were carried out after China’s Supreme People’s Court approved the death sentences, as it must for all such sentences.

The Church of Almighty God, also known as Eastern Lightning, was founded in northeastern China in 1989 and teaches that Jesus Christ has returned to Earth as a Chinese woman who will save followers from the apocalypse. The sect has pledged to slay the “Great Red Dragon,” a reference to the ruling Communist Party. After the killing in May, the Chinese authorities began a sweeping crackdown on the sect and claim to have detained hundreds of its members.

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