China court upholds cult leader's life sentence

Updated: 2016-02-02 22:05


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GUANGZHOU -- A southern Chinese court upheld the life sentence of a man who was convicted of organizing an illegal cult, rape, fraud, and production and sale of harmful food on Tuesday.

Wu Zeheng, founder of "Huazang Zongmen," was sentenced to life in October by Zhuhai City Intermediate People's Court in the southern province of Guangdong. He was fined 7.15 million yuan ($1.09 million dollars).

Three of his followers were also given sentences of up to four years in prison on conviction of fraud and perverting the course of justice.

Wu and one of his followers, Meng Yue, appealed against the court's ruling. Meng was sentenced to four years in prison.

The provincial Higher People's Court rejected their appeals Tuesday, saying the sentences were meted out fairly and based on sufficient evidence.

Wu, born in 1967 in Guangdong, has been propagating the pseudo-religion Huazang Zongmen as a lofty sect of Buddhism and claimed to be the successor of several eminent monks.

In the name of charity and life science and through his inflammatory preaching, Wu drew a large number of followers who were interested in Buddhism, suffering diseases or simply believed that associations with the cult would ward off ill fortune.

Wu seduced many women saying he could give them "supernatural power." He was also found to have amassed more than 6.7 million yuan in ill-gotten gains, according to the court.