The Nanfang / Blog

Cult or Persecution? Religious Group in Zhuhai Raided by Police

Posted: 08/8/2014 12:15 pm

huazang dharma raid zhuhai cult relgion

In light of the brutal murder committed at a McDonald’s in May, China appears to be acting tough on wayward religious extremist groups. However, a recent police raid on one religious group has drawn mixed reporting from media outlets inside and outside China.

On July 29, police in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province staged a coordinated raid on the businesses and living compounds of Huazang Dharma, an “evil cult” as labelled by the Chinese media. A total of 60 people were investigated in the raid in which 15 people remain in detention, reports China Daily.

The Huazang Dharma is suspected by police of committing fraud and rape, among other crimes. Police have seized church propaganda and property as they continue their investigation.

The China Daily report specifically points out that Wu, addressed as His Holiness Vairocana Xing Wu by his followers, claims to be a reincarnated deity comprised of elements of Buddhism, Zen Buddhism and other religions.

Contrary to Chinese media reports, Sinosphere of the New York Times, offers a different perspective on the police raid.

Sinosphere reports that followers of the religious group claim 50 people were detained in the raid, including 20 children. They say 18 remain in detention, Wu Zeheng among them.

As of the article’s publishing on Tuesday, it was not clear to Sinosphere why police mounted the raid on Huazang Dharma. By that point, the government had not issued any public statements about the status of Huazang Dharma, and those investigated by police during the raid said authorities did not accuse the group of being a cult.

Wu Zeheng, identified only by his surname in the Chinese report, first established the Huazang Dharma in the 1990s and has had issues with the authorities on several occasions. He was arrested in 2000 and sentenced to eleven years in prison for financial crimes, while his followers say his imprisonment has to do with an open letter he wrote calling for more democracy and transparency.

Wu’s congregation is said to be growing within China and abroad.

Photo: Sinosphere


Church of the Almighty God Members on Trial in Guangzhou

Posted: 06/12/2014 1:36 pm

church of the almighty god cult religionPRD residents shocked at the beating death of a Shandong woman by a religious group named the Church of the Almighty God may be surprised to hear they are well-entrenched in Guangzhou.

Seven people belonging to the cult were prosecuted at the Haizhu District Procuratorate on June 6, reports the Procuratorate Daily. Arrested in January of this year, alleged leader Bai Xiujie and six group members were charged with “undermining law implementation through a cult organization”.

Reports have been unclear as to the fate of the defendants and what punishments they may face.  

READ: Crackdown on “Cult” Has Begun,
Guangdong Woman Gets 5 Years in Jail

Described as an “evil cult” by the Chinese media, the Church of the Almighty God has been classified as an illegal group by the state.

The Church of the Almighty God has had groups based in the Baiyun and Haizhu districts of Guangzhou since March 2013. Despite the ban, the group continues to congregate and distribute literature. Police have seized 106 documents, 75 books and 133,000 electronic files related to the group.

As China Topix reports, Church of the Almighty God was first established in the 90s in Henan by Zhao Weishan. The cult claims Jesus Christ has been resurrected through Yang Xiangbin, the wife of the cult’s founder, who fled to the US in 2000.


Photo: Hexun


McDonald’s Cult Leader Gets TV Interview, More Details of Deadly Attack Emerge

Posted: 06/3/2014 10:00 am

mcdonalds attack shandong zhaoyuan cult religious restaurant

The sensational story of a Shandong woman who was beaten to death at a local Zhaoyuan McDonald’s continues to shock the country. People are still trying to come to grips with the horrific crime, which involved a religious group named Church of the Almighty God. The group has been universally described by Chinese media as an “evil cult”.

A woman named Wu refused to hand over her phone number to a group of people at the McDonald’s on May 28 and lost her life as a result. The group allegedly consisted of members of the cult, who had gone to the restaurant looking for new recruits.

READ: Woman Beaten to Death at McDonald’s for
Refusing to Give Her Phone Number

A witness named Zhang Hongpeng said the group — two males and four women — had gone to different tables soliciting phone numbers. Zhang said the phone number he gave was fake, a ruse employed by many other diners as well. Zhang had thought the phone numbers were required for a social media promotion.

Wu was the only one who refused, and after asking the rest of the diners, the group came back to demand her phone number. Zhang said a woman in the group loudly banged the table in front of Wu with her hands and demanded Wu give up this information.

The altercation rapidly escalated as one member of the group, Zhang Lidong, started to violently attack Wu with a broom handle.

CCTV reported the attacker, Zhang, had told the victim to “Go to hell, demon” and said she would “never come back in the next reincarnation”, which lines up with what was heard in a video taken by a witness. As well, other members of the group warned bystanders they would “kill whomever got involved”.

People’s Daily reports the incident started at 9:19pm, and that police arrived at the scene within 4 minutes.  mcdonalds attack cult religious restaurant shandong zhaoyuanmcdonalds attack cult religious restaurant shandong zhaoyuanmcdonalds attack religious cult restaurant shandong zhaoyuan

Police officer Yan Zhi was the first to arrive at the scene, and reported that the victim was lying in a pool of blood. Zhang was kicking and stomping on her as a boy used a mop handle to strike her head.

mcdonalds attack shandong zhaoyuan cult religious restaurant

Sina reports the six suspects resisted arrest. Wu was pronounced dead at the hospital at 9:48pm.

mcdonalds attack shandong zhaoyuan cult religious restaurant

Zhaoyuan police said the suspects have all confessed to the crime. Charged are Zhang Lidong, Zhang Fan, Lu Yingchun, Zhang Hang, Zhang Qiaolian, and a minor.

All suspects are apparently members of the Church of the Almighty God, and are unemployed. Zhang Lidong is the father of two of the women in the group as well as the unnamed attack religious cult restaurant shandong zhaoyuan

A memorial was held on June 1 to commemorate the 37 year-old victim, Wu (seen above). A salesperson by trade, Wu was the wife and mother to a six year-old boy who reportedly keeps asking why his mother hasn’t come attack shandong zhaoyuan cult religious restaurantmcdonalds attack shandong zhaoyuan cult religious restaurant

Reuters reports that the Church of the Almighty God is banned by the Chinese government, and Xinhua condemned the group by saying, “The audacity of the cult members to terrorize their victim at a McDonald’s, a chain frequented by average Chinese, further racked people’s nerves.”

In what may serve to further fray the damaged nerves of the people, an interview aired on CCTV News on Saturday that allowed cult member Zhang Lidong to espouse his views to a national audience, which is already on edge from bomb and knife attacks amid threats of terrorism.

Excerpts from that interview include the following dialogue that highlight Zhang’s spiritual beliefs:

Reporter: On the evening of May 28, why did you attack this person at McDonald’s?

Zhang Lidong: Because she is a demon, an evil spirit. My goal was to beat her to death.

Reporter: Don’t you have any consideration for the law?

Zhang Lidong: None at all.

Reporter: Aren’t you afraid of the law?

Zhang Lidong: No, because I believe in God.

The People’s Republic of China is an atheist state. Though it does not require its citizens to be atheists, Communist Party members are required to be atheists despite a growing trend to the contrary.

Photos: Weibo (2, 3, 4, 5 ), 365Jia, 199


Crackdown on “Cult” Has Begun, Guangdong Woman Gets 5 Years in Jail

Posted: 06/3/2014 8:00 am

A woman in Shaoguan, Guangdong was sentenced to five years in jail for inviting 39 people to her home and organising study sessions on behalf of the religious sect “Church of the Almighty God”, just days after the beating death of a woman in Zhaoyuan, Shandong Province by six members from the religious sect.

Huang Mingfei, 39, became a member of the religious group in 2010 and has since been supplying materials to her fellow 39 members, Yangcheng Evening News reported. Huang organised a total of more than 10 meetings between 2010 and her arrest in September last year, according to the report.

Zhao Weishan, the founder of the Almighty God religious cult. Photo

The Shaoguan intermediate court said Huang, an unemployed woman with a primary school education, is guilty of “organising and using a religious cult to break laws,” the report said without identifying whether the verdict was delivered before or after the beating death of a woman in Zhaoyuan on May 28.

Confiscated study materials found at Huang’s home include materials titled “Satan meeting” and “little ghost gives an injection of the dead”, the report said.

Founded in 1989 in China’s northeastern Heilongjiang Province, the Church of the Almighty God, which is loosely based on Christianity, was banned by the Chinese government as a religious cult in 1995. The cult’s beliefs include the Mayan 2012 apocalypse, and its preachings include that God has returned to earth in China as a woman, the New York Times reported.

 Home page photo: AFP 


The Spin Doctor – Cults, “Cults”

Posted: 06/10/2011 12:45 pm

Cults – “Cults”

3.9 out of 5

What a couple of smart-asses. It’s bad enough that Manhattan, NY based duo, Cults, chose such a ubiquitous term as a band name, they took the cheeky step of also using it as the title of their debut LP. As one can perhaps appreciate, this makes researching the band a rather challenging task, particularly considering their 2010 EP, Cults 7”, was void of any biographical information whatsoever. What we do know is that vocalist Madeline Follin and multi-instrumentalist Brian Oblivion (yes…you read that correctly) have crafted a record with enough going on that a biographical introduction isn’t necessary. The deceptively complex blend of Motown, lo-fi, and dream-pop, make for a fantastic record to kick-off your summer.

Album opener “Abducted” sets the tone nicely: jangly guitars, xylophone and Follin’s alto, all of which sound shallow and miles away, will have you wondering what’s wrong with your stereo. By the time you get to the volume dial, the bass, drums and synth washes kick in, much of the reverb disappears, and the volume gets cranked: “I knew right then that I’d been abducted. I knew right then that he would be taking my heart,” Follin sings, metaphorically supplanting love with abduction. Cleverly, Oblivion takes the third verse, stepping in as the lover/abductor: “I knew right then that she’d been abducted. I knew right then that I would be taking her heart.” The witty narrative perfectly counterbalances the otherwise propulsive piece of bubblegum pop. Yet for all of the shimmery sheen running throughout Cults, the duo reach for (though not always attain), a more substantial narrative. “Go Outside”, the lone holdover from Cults 2010 EP, has a sun-drenched xylophone melody accessible enough for a six-year old to get behind, yet the track opens with a sample from none other than People’s Temple cult leader, Jim Jones: “To me, death is not a fearful thing. It’s living that is treacherous.” It’s that “living is treacherous” theme which permeates much of the lyrical content on the record, albeit in the poppiest tone possible.

The album’s midsection plays like a veritable who’s who of Motown: the Phil Spector style production (take stock of the finger snaps, those shakers and the dead give-away percussion styling), and the liberal borrowing of not one, but two Supremes tracks during the verses of “You Know What I Mean” (I hear “Baby Love” and “Where Did Our Love Go?” but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are others). Elsewhere, standout track “Oh My God”, plays like something the Jackson 5 might have recorded were they to have had access to all of the technical wizardy of today’s music studios. Opening with a reverb driven drum and synth loop, and rooted with a fantastic bass line, Follin dishes out her best M.J. impersonation. Though the record closes on its lone weak link “Rave On”, the track prior to it, “Bumper” is another standout. With piano, a dirty electric guitar outro, plenty of “la, la, la, la, las”, and Follin and Oblivion trading vocals, it’s an indelible pop treat.

Part of what makes Cults work is the lo-fi nature of the recording. Released on Lily Allen’s label “In the Name Of”, which is backed by Sony, we can assume the record wasn’t cut on the cheap and that the effect is deliberate. This is always a tricky balancing act, as, more often than not, the effect of consciously “dumbing down” the production translates into nothing more than a contrived attempt to sound aged. But, when coupled with Follin’s layered vocals, the lo-fi finish helps reduce the syrupy nature of the source material. As much as Cults liberally (oh so liberally…), mine the heyday of Motown, the heavy use of synths, drum loops and guitar fuzz sound decidedly current. More importantly however, the hooks are there, making Cults an interesting act to keep an eye on.

- Ewan Christie

Follow PRD_SpinDoctor on Twitter

Read previous Spin Doctor Reviews

Keep in Touch

What's happening this week in Shenzhen, Dongguan and Guangzhou? Sign up to be notified when we launch the This Week @ Nanfang newsletter.

sign up for our newsletter

Nanfang TV