By Michael Evans
China has detained over 101 members of an “evil cult” preaching the imminent end of the world, after the group allegedly attacked police and cheated multiple victims out of thousands of yuan.
Most recently, eight people were detained in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, for spreading the group’s message door-to-door and in public.
Meanwhile, four members of the group were also arrested in Inner Mongolia. Police were alerted by a man who said that proselytisers had convinced him and his wife to give nearly 3,000 yuan as a sacrifice to escape the coming doomsday, Xinhua reported.
“They are telling everyone that on Friday the sun will rise in the west and then disappear for three days and then there will be 72 days of terrible natural disasters starting from January 1, 2013,” one 24-year-old former cult member whose 50-year-old mother is still an adherent told the Financial Times.
“They’ve also told all members to withdraw their money from the bank in preparation for the end of the world,” he said.
Members of the group, which calls itself the Church of Almighty God, organized a large-scale procession in Shaanxi last week, unfurling banners declaring that the coming cataclysm could only be survived by believing in Almighty God.
Photos posted on a website dedicated to monitoring the group appeared to show violent clashes between believers and police, with images of battered police cars at the scene of the demonstrations.
The group, also known as Eastern Lightning, has existed in China since the early 1990s, and by some estimates boasts over a million adherents. Incorporating many elements of Christianity, the church preaches that a Chinese-born messiah will overthrow the Communist Party and save believers from eternal damnation.
UPDATE: The total number of sect members arrested has risen to more than 500, as nearly 400 people have been arrested in Qinghai province, CCTV reported Tuesday.
A public notice on the web site of Qinghai provincial government said local police are waging a “severe crackdown” on the group described as a cult with “strong political penchants.” The government urged the public to inform the police of any illegal propaganda, gathering and preaching by the group.