Happy end of the world everyone! Except you, Chinese cult members. You are under arrest.


Yes, though midnight has already come and gone for many of our readers, and it is now December 21, 2012 in over half of the world, it would appear that the apocalypse has not, in fact, occurred.

So not only do members of a doomsday cult in China look like idiots, it would appear they are also under arrest for spreading rumours about the end of the world. According to Al Jazeera:

“More than 400 members of the ‘Almighty God’ sect were detained in the northwest province of Qinghai, the China Daily reported on Thursday. Another 350 people were also arrested in the southwestern province of Guizhou.

A few hundreds more were arrested in five other provinces. 

Members of the group believe Friday, December 21, marks the end of the world as the Mayan “Long Count” calendar finishes a 5,200-year cycle.

Beyond that, little was known about the group until the arrests of its members, which has attracted international media attention, Timothy Hildebrandt, a lecturer in Chinese Politics at King’s College London, told Al Jazeera.

‘It’s interesting because a lot of people have sort of been laughing about it because it does seem rather silly that you have the government cracking down on these folks who are doomsdayers,’ Hildebrandt said.

Hildebrandt said the crackdown might be a reflection of a larger concern by Chinese authorities because it happened in Qinghai, where there are large Muslim and Tibetan populations.”

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For more on the cult, we turn to The Guardian (and Reuters), who revealed a little more about the group’s recent activities:

“In recent weeks, hundreds of members of the group have clashed with police, sometimes outside government buildings, in Henan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, according to photos on popular microblogs.

The government says it is a cult calling for a “decisive battle” to slay the “Red Dragon” Communist party, and has been spreading doomsday alerts related an old Mayan calendar, seen by some as predicting the end of the world on 21 December.

The sect’s followers have been distributing leaflets saying that the world will end in 2012, state media said. The Communist party accepts no challenge to its rule and is obsessed with social stability.

It has taken particular aim at cults, which have multiplied across the country in recent years. Demonstrations have been stopped with force and some sect leaders executed.”

For a more personal look at Eastern Lightning’s impact, we turn to the Financial Times, which told the story of one Shi Xinwang, who discovered his wife was a member of this “dangerous cult” after she asked him to withdraw all of the family’s money and prepare to beg forgiveness in front of God. Shi did what any good husband would do:

In desperation he has secretly informed on her to the Chinese authorities. A nationwide crackdown has so far led to the arrest of about 1,000 followers of the quasi-Christian group, which also calls itself the Church of Almighty God.

Eastern Lightning, one of China’s most aggressive millenarian sects, believes that Christ has been reincarnated as a woman in central China and is on a mission to lead the faithful in a decisive battle to slay the ‘great red dragon’ of the Communist party.

Current and former Eastern Lightning adherents told the Financial Times this week that the group had adopted a theory popularised in the Hollywood film 2012, which says an ancient Mayan calendar has predicted that doomsday will fall on Friday, December 21 2012.

Believers expect three days of darkness followed by 72 days of natural disasters, starting on January 1, that will devastate the earth and wipe out all non-believers, whom they refer to among themselves as snakes and demons.”

In a word: Ridiculous.

Read more on China, France, America and the world beyond in the latest edition of Carnet Atlantique!

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