A Chinese court has found 25 members of a religious cult guilty of "acting illegally" in northwestern China, state television reported.

CCTV on Saturday screened footage of the trial, which took place on Thursday in the city of Xiji, in the Ningxia region.

The court sentenced the group to terms of between three and a half to eight years in jail.

Followers of the Church of the Almighty God, or "Quannengshen", as it is known in Chinese, were charged with spreading religious materials in public places, disturbing social order and undermining national laws and regulations, state media said.

Hundreds of doomsdayers arrested in China in 2012

In a state TV footage, Dai Yongzong, one of the defendants, said that he joined the group seeking a cure for his wife.

"I was thinking as long as my wife is cured, the family would be happy," Dai said. "I didn't imagine that I would be misled by the sect. It destroyed me, my family as well as my children."

The banned cult has been the target of a crackdown in recent months. Human rights advocates said the move reflected government fear of organised religion.

Recently, the Chinese government has also prosecuted members of the Muslim-minority Uigher group .

Slaying the 'Red Dragon'

The Quannengshen , which originated in central Henan province, believes that Jesus has been resurrected as Yang Xiangbin, wife of the sect's founder Zhao Weishan, according to Xinhua state news agency.

Zhao is also known as Xu Wenshan, Xinhua said, adding that the couple fled to the United States in September 2000.

In 2012, China launched a crackdown on the group after it called for a "decisive battle" to slay the "Red Dragon" Communist Party, and preached that the world would end that year.

China's Communist Party does not permit any challenge to its rule. It has cracked down on cults, which have multiplied across the country in recent years.

Worship in the country is allowed only in state-approved churches. But many groups belong to unregistered congregations, leading to a crackdown by the government with some sect leaders executed.  

Former President Jiang Zemin launched a campaign in 1999 to crush the Falun Gong religious group, banning it 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.

Source: Agencies