More doomsday ‘cult’ members nabbed

AFP, BEIJING

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 - Page 6

China has arrested nearly 1,000 people in a crackdown on a Christian sect that spread doomsday rumors and targeted communist rule, state media said yesterday ahead of the supposedly Mayan-foretold apocalypse.

The Christian-inspired group “Almighty God” has been accused of spreading doomsday rumors apparently linked to the ancient Mayan long count calendar and urging followers to slay the “red dragon” of communism, state media reports said.

Close to 1,000 followers of the sect, which state-run media labels an “evil cult” have been held in a nationwide crackdown that began last week, state-run CCTV reported.

Police detained more than 350 Almighty God members in Guizhou Province, while in the northwestern province of Qinghai more than 400 were held for “gathering unlawfully,” the Beijing Times reported.

Smaller numbers have been held in other areas across the country.

Almighty God predicts that three days of darkness will begin today, and has called on its members to overthrow the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which it refers to as “the big red dragon,” the state-run Global Times reported.

It has also told believers that a new era presided over by a “female Jesus” has arrived and that tsunamis and earthquakes will rock the world, the Global Times said.

The apocalypse predictions have received widespread coverage in China, thanks in part to the success of the Hollywood disaster film 2012, which was inspired by the supposed Mayan prophecy.

Chinese state-run media have condemned the group in lurid detail, with the China Youth Daily reporting that Almighty God “even uses ‘sex communication,’ calling on female members to use their sex appeal to seduce single men.”

The sect was founded in the early 1990s, but has remained secretive in the face of government intolerance of non-official religious groups.

Group members use pseudonyms such as “Little White Rabbit” or “Doggy” to conceal their identities, and are often not allowed to carry mobile phones or other communication devices, China Business View magazine reported.

Earlier this week CCTV quoted police in Qinghai as saying their investigation into the Almighty God sect was related to stability maintenance and would be linked to “our anti-self-immolation fight.”

The comment was a reference to nearly 100 Tibetans setting themselves on fire since 2009 in protest at China’s rule of its Tibetan-inhabited regions, which include Qinghai.