Wednesday, July 14, 1999 Published at 20:51 GMT 21:51 UK
Death for Chinese cult leader
China has sentenced the leader of a Christian religious group to death for allegedly swindling his fellow sect members.
He was also found guilty of raping more than 10 female disciples, two of them aged just 13.
Liu Jiaguo denied the rape charges, saying the women acted voluntarily after he told them it was their sacred duty to sleep with him.
The 34-year-old leader, a rural Christian convert from Hunan province, is reported to have styled himself 'the supreme spirit'.
The Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said Liu Jiaguo had appealed against his sentence.
The Chinese authorities have accused Supreme Spirit of trying to overthrow the state by calling for the founding of a spiritual nation.
Rise of religion
China has pledged to take tough action against such organisations.
BBC Beijing Correspondent Duncan Hewitt says the authorities are clearly worried by the growing number of religious and quasi-religious groups which have sprung up outside state control.
In recent years police are reported to have broken up around 10,000 such groups in Liu Jiaguo's home province of Hunan alone.
Members of the Buddhist-inspired meditation movement, Falun Gong, shocked the Chinese authorities in April when they surrounded government headquarters.
The group, which has tens of millions of followers, was protesting at being labelled a superstition.