Women convicted in China for spreading cult beliefs

Beijing - A Chinese woman has been sentenced to three and half years in prison for spreading a Christian cult called almighty God.

Shou Guoying, a local resident of Zhuji City in Zhejiang Province, was sentenced to three and half years in prison by local courts yesterday for spreading ideas of the cult Quannengshen, which means "almighty god."

Shou was a leading figure in charge of spreading the cult's beliefs in the area. She was appointed as a figurehead roughly 6 months after she got in contact with Quannengshen, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

She was found to have frequently distributed materials in the form of books, memory cards, CDs, etc, at social gatherings, according to court's statement.

Shou has "seriously violated national law" and should be punished accordingly, it said.

First discovered in the 1990s in central China's Henan Province, Quannengshen claimed that Jesus has been resurrected as Yang Xiangbin, wife of the sect's founder Zhao Weishan, also known as Xu Wenshan.

The couple fled to the US in September 2000. The sect has been widely criticized for using rumors to confuse people and coercing others to join the cult.

In late October and early November 1998, robberies and assaults connected with the cult were reported over 12 days in Henan's Tanghe County, with victims' limbs broken and ears cut off, the report said.

Last week, five Quannengshen members stood trial on murder charges in Yantai Intermediate People's Court in east China's Shandong Province.

According to Chinese law, a cult is an illegal organisation that tries to control people by deifying the sect leader, delude members under the guise of religion or other means and engage in activities that harm society.

China currently lists 14 such illegal cults, including Quannengshen and Falungong.