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)

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A secretive cult that exploits the weak and vulnerable

Taishang village in Zhaoyuan, Shandong province is one of the places where Quannengshen has a strong presence. Liu Youzhi / For China Daily

'Weird' behavior

"I found their behavior rather weird, and I shed no tears," said Zhong, who added that when she read the book, doubts grew in her mind, and she began to ask herself why "God" would use phrases such as "intoxicating drugs" to refer to the contents of the Bible and the teachings of mainstream Christian leaders.

Despite her suspicions, Zhong continued to learn the cult's songs and join in with their online worship sessions. The scales only really fell from her eyes when one of the women admitted that the stories they had told her were fabrications, designed to make her more amenable to the sect's ambitions.

Zhong was devastated. "They pretended to make my acquaintance by accident, but in fact I had been targeted, and they had teamed up to deceive me into joining their cult," she said.

According to Lian Meng, the founder of the Anti-Almighty God League, the sect's main targets are the elderly, "left-behind" women, laid-off workers and distraught divorcees.

He said the cult's tactics are generally to search out such people and offer various kinds of help and care that will make them feel as though they are wanted. Then they organize "Bible study" and pretend to be Christians, but in truth, the 'pastor's' teachings don't come from the Bible, but from Quannengshen's own theories.

The second step, employed before doubts can form, involves ordering new members to write letters promising unquestioning devotion and calling on God to punish their families if they 'betrayed' the sect," Lian said. After that, new members are shown videos depicting people dying in a number of ways as a reminder of what happens to traitors. The cult uses this method to control its members, he said.

The third step is conditioning, during which members, usually women, are brainwashed to become loyal believers. The only way of freeing people from the sect is to call the police and isolate members by cutting off all communication with the sect, according to Lian.

Although Zhao Weishan, Quannengshen's founder, fled to the United States in 1995 when the sect was outlawed in China, his control has not been eroded. Zhao has divided China into nine large regions, and imposed a strict management system at city, county, town and village levels.

Pastor Laurence Tom from the Chinese Christian Church and Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who has met Quannengshen members many times, said, "Quannengshen is not consistent with our beliefs and our church. I think their tactics are similar to the Mafia's."

He warned: "They're being secretive. They're aggressive in recruiting, and once an individual joins the organization, the only way out is death. This cult attacks their family members, too, which makes it pretty scary for them to leave."

Qi Xin and Adelina Zhang contributed to this story.

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