11 cult members jailed in north China

Beijing - Eleven doomsday cult members were sentenced to between three and eight and a half years for distributing illegal materials in a northern Chinese city, state media reported on Friday.

Members of Mentuhui, or Disciple Society, were convicted of "instigating believers to defy law and regulations with the cult's doctrine", the Xinhua news agency reported, citing a spokesperson for the Shizuishan city anti-cult office in Ningxia Hui autonomous region.

The defendants pleaded guilty to sending text messages, pictures, video and audio clips to residents of the city's Dawukou district and Pingluo county, Xinhua said.

Shizuishan police arrested 137 Mentuhui members in November 2014, Xinhua said, and Ningxia police detained more than 580 members between 2012 and June 2014.

Established by Shaanxi province resident Li Sanbao in 1989, the Disciple Society considers itself a Christian sect, South China state newspaper Jing Bao reported in an article headlined "the 11 most active religious cults in China".

They prophesy a flood will destroy the world, the Shenzhen-based paper said, and were classified a cult in 1995. Falun Gong topped the list, with Almighty God and The Shout second. Another group, simply known as The Shout, came in third.

Beijing's most notable crackdown on religious groups targeted the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which was banned in the late 1990s.

State media on Thursday reported that Huazang Dharma leader Wu Zeheng is being prosecuted in a south China court for alleged activities including preparing toxic food, fraud and rape.