Beijing arrests 500 members of Christian doomsday cult
Arrests across China after cult spreads rumour that world will end on 21 December
IN THE WEST, believing the world is about to end can see you labelled as eccentric; in China, it can get you arrested. Police have picked up more than 500 members of the Almighty God Christian group (also known as Eastern Lightning), a doomsday cult that has been spreading rumours about the imminent end of the world.
About 400 of them were detained in western Qinghai province, says the BBC. The others were arrested elsewhere in China.
The cult, regarded as a "heretical Christian sect", has only recently embraced the Mayan doomsday prophesys that predicts the world will end on 21 December, says the Daily Mail. It has been spreading rumours about the impending apocalypse "door-to-door" in China and claims it is the only group that can save people's lives.
As part of the clampdown, police seized "large numbers" of placards, video discs, books and printing machines.
While the panic spread by the cult may have prompted Chinese authorities to act, the arrests are also likely to be linked to Eastern Lightning's very public opposition to the Communist regime. Last week, the state-run Huashang news agency reported that the sect was calling on its followers to "exterminate the great red dragon" – a reference to the Communist Party.
Eastern Lightning, which was formed in 1989, is one of the religious groups that has "filled a spiritual void" as rising economic prosperity and encroaching capitalism have seen millions of Chinese moving from the countryside to the cities, says the Mail. The sect believes that Jesus has reappeared as a woman in central China and it has been accused of recruiting new members by kidnapping and beating people until they convert.