China rounds up 71 members of religious cult


Reuters/May 24, 1999

BEIJING - Authorities have rounded up 71 members of a religious cult in southwest China and thwarted a plot to assassinate a town official, the Press Digest said on Monday.

Members of the Mentu Hui, or Gate Disciples sect, were arrested in Heyu village in Chongqing city last month when they met to plot the assassination of an unidentified town official, the newspaper said. It gave no reason for the delay in reporting the arrests.

The sect was an illegal organisation and its leaders faced charges of fraud, rape and manslaughter, the newspaper said.

Sect leaders were accused of telling followers who were ill to pray instead of consulting doctors, the newspaper said, adding that some believers died as a result.

Cults and superstition were virtually eliminated in the years after the communists came to power in 1949, but have staged a comeback in recent years.

Millions who live in dire poverty have turned to cults in the face of rising medical costs and for spiritual sustenance.

President Jiang Zemin declared war on cults in January and called for stability in rural areas.

Police in the central province of Hunan broke up China's biggest religious cult, Zhu Shen Jiao, or Supreme Spirit sect, last year and rounded up more than 20 members.

The sect called for the overthrow of a "secular nation" and proposed buying firearms to stage an armed rebellion.

Sect leader Liu Jiaguo, 34, is on trial. His deputy, a 22-year-old woman, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in March.

In April, more than 10,000 members of the cult-like, quasi-religious sect Falun Gong besieged the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in the biggest protest in Beijing in a decade.

Authorities have stopped short of declaring Falun Gong a cult, but have warned against similar protests.


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