China may increase penalties for illegal cults to life in prison

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 24, 2015 11:55 PM

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China may extend the maximum sentence for people found guilty of cult-related crimes to life imprisonment from 15 years in jail, according to a draft amendment to the country's criminal law reported by state media on Thursday.

China's Communist Party does not tolerate challenges to its rule and is obsessed with social stability. It has cracked down on cults, which have multiplied in recent years. Demonstrations have been put down with force and some sect leaders executed.

The draft amendment is being considered by the Standing Committee of the country's largely rubber-stamp parliament, which is meeting until July 1.

According to the draft amendments, people sentenced to life imprisonment may also have their property confiscated and be stripped of political rights.

People found to be part of a cult and also guilty of rape or fraud will be charged with both crimes, while penalties have also been added for cult members who seriously injury other people, according to the draft amendment.

China executed two members of a banned religious cult in February for murdering a woman in a McDonald's restaurant after she rebuffed an apparent recruitment attempt by the group last May.

In 1999, then-President Jiang Zemin launched a campaign to crush the Falun Gong religious group. It was banned as an "evil cult" after thousands of practitioners staged a surprise but peaceful sit-in outside the leadership compound in Beijing to demand official recognition of their movement.

(Reporting by Sue-Lin Wong; Editing by Ben Blanchard and Michael Perry)