BEIJING – A Chinese court has secretly executed the leader of a fringe underground Christian sect and 11 followers convicted of murdering members of a rival group, a defense lawyer said Wednesday.
The Intermediate People’s Court in the northeastern city of Shuangyashan executed Xu Shuangfu, the charismatic founder of the Three Grades of Servants group, and at least two other leading members last week without notifying their lawyers or family members, said Xu’s lawyer, Li Heping.
The executions of Xu and the other leaders, Li Maoxing and Wang Jun, followed an appeals court hearing last month on their convictions and death sentences for the involvement in the killing of 20 members of another group between 2002 and 2004.
Nine other members of the group have also been executed for those killings in recent weeks, Li said.
Xu and Li’s lawyers had argued during their trial that prosecutors lacked evidence to link the two to the killings, and the men claimed they had been tortured into confessing.
The case highlighted the fast-paced but chaotic growth of Christian groups in China, which are attracting large numbers of followers but also grappling with repression by police. Xu’s Three Grades of Servants had been fighting for converts with the group, Eastern Lightning.