A press release of the Church of Almighty God
October 14, 2017
The Church of Almighty God (CAG), also known as Eastern Lightning, is one of the religious groups most severely persecuted by the Chinese Communist government, and that for a long time. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) itself does not deny the severity of its persecution of CAG, but maintains that it is justified by CAG’s criminal activities. In fact, these charges are mere CCP’s malicious fabrications and slanders. Among all the false accusations created by CCP, the most infamous one concerns the McDonald’s murder of May 28, 2014, in Zhaoyuan, Shandong Province, China.
According to CCP’s official reports, on May 28, 2014, a man called Zhang Lidong and his five associates, who were having dinner in a McDonald’s in Zhaoyuan City, asked customers for their phone numbers for future proselytization purposes. One client, Wu Shuoyan, refused to supply her phone number and was beaten to death by Zhang and his accomplices. On the third day after the killing, the CCP swiftly attributed it to CAG, and this before any court had judged the case. Then, CCP conducted nationwide a repression and persecution of CAG, and at the same time of independent Chinese house churches, that was even more severe than before. Some overseas human rights activists and religionists successively published articles to condemn the CCP for its use of the McDonald’s murder as a pretext for a cruel campaign oppressing religious freedom (see e.g. http://www.hrichina.org/chs/zhong-guo-ren-quan-shuang-zhou-kan/xin-shu-yan-zhong-guo-dang-ju-he-ceng-zun-zhong-guo-zong-jiao-xin ; http://biweeklyarchive.hrichina.org/article/18374.html ）
On August 21, 2014, the perpetrators were tried by the Intermediate People’s Court of Yantai in Shandong Province. At trial, Lü Yingchun, who was one of the two leaders of the group, clearly explained: “Zhang Fan [the other leader of the group] and I are the unique spokeswomen for the real ‘Almighty God.’ The government has been cracking down on the Almighty God that Zhao Weishan believes in [i.e. the Church of Almighty God, also known as Eastern Lightning], not the ‘Almighty God’ we mention. They are fake ‘Almighty God,’ while we are the real ‘Almighty God.’” Zhang Fan also stated, “I am God in substance. Lü Yingchun is also God in substance. The relationship between Lü Yingchun and I is two fleshly bodies sharing one soul. We are the substitute to each other.” “In the Almighty God organization, Lü Yingchun and I have the highest positions. We are ‘God Himself.’ My father, younger sister and brother, and Zhang Qiaolian are all the ‘chief priests.’ Up till now, only my father, my younger brother, my younger sister, Lü Yingchun, Zhang Qiaolian and I are adherents of the real ‘Almighty God.’” (The Confession of the Defendant of the Murder Case in Zhaoyuan, Shandong: “I am God Himself,” Beijing News, August 23, 2014, available at http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2014-08-22/123730728266.shtml) As the evidence proved, the “Almighty God” whom this group of perpetrators believed in was a dual deity composed of Zhang Fan and Lü Yingchun, not the incarnate Almighty God whom the CAG believes in and witnesses, who is obviously a different person. Moreover, the perpetrators stated distinctly that they belonged to another group, not CAG.
The evidence, coming from documents published by official Chinese sources, is crystal clear that the Church of Almighty God had no connection with the 2014 McDonald’s homicide in Zhaoyuan, but the CCP arbitrarily and maliciously created its own fake news and labelled the perpetrators as members of CAG, in order to create a basis for its further repression and persecution of CAG. Although the CCP, to this very day, increases its overseas propaganda against CAG, using the McDonald’s murder as a main weapon, and some well-known Western media even accept it, those who have discernment and seriously research about CAG do not believe the official version.
CAG has nothing to hide, and we embrace people from all walks of life to be acquainted with our Church. We are glad that internationally acclaimed scholars of religion are increasingly studying our Church. We readily open our churches, in the countries where they can freely operate, to visits by scholars and others, answer their inquiries, and put our books, videos, and other documents at their disposal.
We have read with pleasure recent works by authoritative and independent scholars who have studied in depth the McDonald’s homicide in Zhaoyuan, on the basis of documents largely published or supplied by Chinese official sources rather than by us. Uniformly, they came to the conclusion that CAG was not responsible for the horrific crime.
Professor Massimo Introvigne, an Italian sociologist and the managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), who inter alia has been invited by the CCP-related China Anti-Cult Association to attend two conferences in 2017 on the notion of “cult” and on the case of the Church of Almighty God, convened in Henan in June and in Hong Kong in September respectively, researched in depth the McDonald’s homicide case and came to the conclusion that the perpetrators were not associated with CAG at all. His research note on this case was published in The Journal of CESNUR for September–October 2017 (see Massimo Introvigne, “‘Cruel Killing, Brutal Killing, Kill the Beast’: Investigating the 2014 McDonald’s ‘Cult Murder’ in Zhaoyuan,” The Journal of CESNUR, September–October 2017, available at http://cesnur.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/tjoc_1_1_6_introvigne_ter.pdf), a peer-reviewed journal whose editorial committee reads like a who’s who of leaders in international studies of new religious movements (see http://cesnur.net/board/).
Professor Massimo Introvigne, based on CCP-connected Chinese sources, concluded that the Zhaoyuan assassins read or heard about CAG and tried to contact the Church, but did not succeed. He quotes an interview with Zhang Fan by Phoenix Television (available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-MY4XRLv70&feature=youtu.be&t=792), where she stated that “I never had contact with the Church of Almighty God because they were very secretive and I could not find them.” Professor Introvigne concludes that the McDonald’s homicide was perpetrated by a “micro-cult” whose members were never part of CAG. Some may have been misled by their use of the expression “Almighty God,” but for them it referred to Zhang Fan and Lü Yingchun, not the One the CAG recognizes as the only Almighty God, and of course this difference is crucial.
David G. Bromley, a leading American sociologist of religions and a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, joined Massimo Introvigne in the research on the McDonald’s homicide, and the conclusion was once again that the perpetrators of the homicide were “members of a different, independent group” rather than of CAG. Their joint article about the horrific crime was published on the Website of the World Religions and Spirituality Project (WRSP), regarded as the leading international online encyclopedia for religious movements (https://wrldrels.org/2017/10/16/lu-yingchun-zhang-fan-group/).
Truth can never be covered up despite a million lies fabricated by the CCP. The research findings of renowned scholars on new religious movements, again, prove that the Church of Almighty God has no connection with the May 28, 2014 McDonald’s homicide in Zhaoyuan. To claim otherwise is merely part of the CCP’s slander of CAG. We hope all responsible and independent international media will review the literature on the homicide, including the scholarly sources. We also hope that the media that were misled by the CCP’s propaganda will correct their comments, and publish objective and factual reports about what really happened in Zhaoyuan and who was responsible for the crime.