A secretive cult that exploits the weak and vulnerable

Updated: 2014-06-26 09:20

By He Na, Li Yao and Adelina Zhang (China Daily)

  Comments() Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Related Story: Tactics and control strategies

By He Na and Li Yao

A secretive cult that exploits the weak and vulnerable

Students in Zhuji, Zhejiang province, sign a banner that reads 'Fight cults and believe in science.' Luo Shanxin / For China Daily

"Secretive", "controlling", "money-loving" and "crazy" are the words Song Wang, a 30-year-old from Yongzhou county, Henan province, used to describe the sect.

When his wife, a member of Quannengshen, disappeared two years ago, Song went undercover to investigate the cult. "I attended several Quannengshen gatherings in our village and the local town, but they were all small events, with just five or six people. We met secretly. The venues and times of meetings were changed regularly," said Song.

"The content of the gatherings is very dull - they discussed how many people had been recruited recently, whether the tactics they had employed were right, and what to do next. They analyzed each village, and set major recruitment targets," he said.

"In my opinion, it's just a pyramid scheme. They sell many books, videos and audio materials, and each member has to pay 150 yuan ($24) for a digital video player called a P5, which contains footage of some of the punishments meted out to 'betrayers'," he said.

"After the meetings, we often ate at members' homes. The food was good, and we didn't have to pay. They once suggested holding a meeting at my apartment, but I told them it wasn't convenient, and suggested we could meet there at a later date," Song said.

According to Song, members of the sect obey a set of strict rules, and communication is a one-way street whereby higher-level members contact those below them in the hierarchy, using "holy names", not their real ones.

A secretive cult that exploits the weak and vulnerable

"They assigned me to recruit new members, but I didn't recruit any. Also, they hate people asking questions, and I was dumped because they thought I was unreliable," he said.

"I used my experience to try to persuade my wife to leave the cult, but I failed to win her back. She was deeply influenced by her mother, who joined the cult more than 10 years ago," he said.

Hong Kong resident Angel Zhong recalled being recruited. "Everything had to be so secretive. I was told not to say a word to my son and daughter, nor to my pastor," said Zhong, who moved to Hong Kong in the late 1990s when she got married. When the marriage ended in 2010, Zhong joined a mainstream Christian church, and a year later she became friendly with three women who seemed to have undergone experiences similar to hers.

Initially, Zhong appreciated their round-the-clock attention and companionship. The women understood the hardships she faced as a single mother trying to raise two young children, and didn't look down on her because she worked as a domestic helper. They even offered to stand in for her at work when she needed a break.

They studied the Bible at Zhong's apartment three times a week, and after the sessions the women cooked meals, washed the dishes, and sometimes stayed overnight to keep her company.

When the women thought Zhong was ready to accept Quannengshen's theories, they handed her a thick book and became ecstatic, bursting into tears and shouting that the mere sight of the book was a rare blessing.