Rape-link sect leader faces death

Agencies in Beijing

South China Morning Post/December 31, 2001

The leader of a banned Christian sect was sentenced to death yesterday after being convicted of complicity in rape, a human rights group said.

Gong Shengliang, 46, founder of the South China Church, was convicted by the Jingmen City Intermediate Court on charges including "using a cult to undermine the enforcement of the law", according to the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Hong Kong.

At a secret trial on December 18, Gong was also convicted of complicity in rape and injuring 14 people during church rituals, the centre said.

Gong's niece Li Ying, 36, also a church leader, was given a death sentence suspended for two years, the centre said in a statement.

The pair were among 17 church organisers sentenced by a court in Hubei province. Others received sentences of between two years and life in prison. Gong had appealed to the High Court of Hubei, the centre added.

Li was convicted for printing and distributing 48 editions of Huanan Zhuankan (South China Special Issue), with a total of 500,000 copies, since 1994.

The centre said Li was charged with causing "intentional damage" and committing a crime within an organised gang.

Gong established his church as a splinter sect of another Christian group, the Total Scope Church. The church grew over a decade to 50,000 members in about 10 provinces in eastern and central China, the centre said.

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