Police in China announced yesterday the arrests of six people who reportedly pled guilty to murdering a woman by bludgeoning her to death at a McDonald’s restaurant in the city of Zhaoyuan, Shandong province. Police said they believed the suspects, who included a man, his reportedly twelve-year-old son, and two daughters, along with two other women, were members of a cult known as Quannengshen, Chinese meaning “All-powerful spirit”.
Police said the victim, surname Wu, refused to give the man, surname Zhang, her telephone number when he solicited her for induction into the group, following which, Zhang began to bludgeon her with a mop before the other suspects joined in the assault. The Australian cited claims from uncensored websites saying the women who accompanied Zhang shouted “beat her to death” prior to attacking the victim themselves.
The son, who can’t be held criminally responsible in China due to his age, will be “dealt with separately” according to authorities. Following the incident, state broadcaster China Central Television reported discovery of religious material at a location connected to Quannengshen.
Video footage of the assault has been uploaded to the internet, along with photos of Wu motionless on the floor of the restaurant in a pool of blood. Though taken to hospital, Wu, who was reportedly the mother of a young son, died. The incident has drawn the criticism of netizens online, who highlighted the presence of dozens of other customers in the restaurant who stood by and filmed the assault, while doing nothing to stop the attack or assist the victim.
According to the newspaper Southern Metropolis Daily, Quannengshen, a doomsday cult which bases its ideology on the Christian Bible, began about twenty years ago in Heilongjiang province and now has members based in the eastern provinces of China. Reportedly the Chinese government declared the group an illegal “evil cult” in 1995. In December 2012, according to a report by the Beijing Morning News, seventeen cultists were arrested in Beijing for harassing people with an apocalyptic message in a public park.
The incident comes amid ongoing efforts by the Chinese government to control religious movements who base their teachings on Christianity and Buddhism. Another group, Falungong, also illegalized as an “evil cult”, was suppressed by the government in 1999, and reportedly had a membership of millions. The government has detained tens of thousands of Falungong members and, according to the group, tortured members for their beliefs.
McDonald’s has released a statement on its Chinese microblog, expressing “deep-felt grief” for the incident, along with a promise the company would conduct an investigation. Chinese state news agency Xinhua quoted Shandong authorities, “Local provincial police authorities vowed to severely punish illegal activities of heretic sects to protect the safety of people’s lives and property”. When the Associated Press contacted the police headquarters in Zhaoyuan, they were told by a clerk there was no one available for comment.