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China jails members of banned 'cult' amid religion crackdown: Xinhua

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has jailed members of what the government calls a cult for causing deaths, organizing the group and illegally collecting money, state media said on Tuesday, part of a crackdown on what Beijing views as dangerous religious movements.

China's officially atheist Communist Party brooks no challenge to its rule and is obsessed with social stability. It has particularly taken aim at cults, which have multiplied across the country in recent years. Demonstrations have been put down with force and some sect leaders executed.

The official Xinhua news agency on Tuesday said Yao Xiangzhi, a member of Mentuhui, or "Disciples Sect" in the central province of Hubei, caused the death of another cult member by denying him freedom, food and drink for a week while people prayed for his recovery from schizophrenia.

Yao was also found guilty of organizing a cult and was jailed for three years.


Mentuhui, which was classified as a cult by the government in the 1990s, was also accused of illegally collecting 40 million yuan ($6 million) between 2011 and 2014 through donations and businesses, Xinhua reported.

That money was then funneled into the hands of Mentuhui leaders for personal use, said Xinhua, citing a deputy police chief.

It was not immediately possible to reach representatives of the religious group or lawyers for those found guilty for comment.

(Reporting by Paul Carsten; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)