Hundreds held in China for spreading doomsday rumors
December 20, 2012 -- Updated 2347 GMT (0747 HKT)
- The group is called the Almighty God cult
- Many of the group's members are poor, unemployed or both
- Doomsday rumors are being spread at public venues, authorities say
(CNN) -- More than 600 members of a fringe Christian group in China have been detained for spreading rumors of an impending apocalypse, pegged to the Mayan calendar, China's Xinhua news agency reported.
Known as the Almighty God cult, the group latched on to the Mayan doomsday scenario to predict the sun would not shine and electricity would not work for three days beginning on December 21.
The cult was established in 1990 in central China and requires its members to surrender their property to the group.
Group members have spread doomsday rumors door-to-door or at public venues and claimed only they could save people's lives, according to authorities.
Mayans prepare for end of calendar
Debunking doomsday: Mayan calendar
Read more: Some believe Friday is doomsday on the Mayan calendar; the Mayans don't
December 21, 2012, is the endpoint of a more than 5,000-year Great Cycle marked on the "Long Count" calendar of the Mayans, an ancient Native American civilization from Mexico and Central America.
Some say this date marks the end of the world, while others suggest it marks the beginning of a new era.
Most of the cult members seized by police were detained for five to 10 days for disturbing social order, Xinhua reported. Police have seized a large number of leaflets, banners, computer discs, slogans, books and printing machines.
Read more: China cracks down on 'Doomsday cult'
Arrests have been reported in Qinghai, Sichuan, Guangdong, and Guizhou provinces and in the capital, Beijing.
"Advice before catastrophe: Satan's men will be extinct. Only the 'Almighty God' can save man. Anybody who resists God will go to hell," a leaflet said.
Cao Wei, a police officer with the Shanghua police station in Lanxi City, said cult members ask new believers to write letters of assurance to show their loyalty to the "Almighty God" and to evangelize.
Xinhua reported that one member wrote a letter saying, "I must preach to 100 people today, or I will be cursed."
Most of the cult's members are in their 40s, unemployed people in urban areas or low-income groups affected by illness or disaster. The group believes that Jesus has been resurrected as a Chinese woman, Xinhua reported.
Authorities say the cult intimidates people who try to leave.
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1113 GMT (1913 HKT)
A smuggler in Dandong, a Chinese border town near North Korea, tells CNN about the underground trade with North Korean soldiers
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 0654 GMT (1454 HKT)
Yenn Wong got quite a surprise one morning earlier this month when she found out an exact copy of her Hong Kong restaurant had opened in China.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0315 GMT (1115 HKT)
When I first came across a "virtual lover" service on e-commerce site Taobao, China's version of Amazon, I thought it was hype.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
Each year Yi Jiefeng does what she can to stop China turning into a desert.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1454 GMT (2254 HKT)
As its relationship with the West worsen, Russia is pivoting east in an attempt to secure business with China.
October 8, 2014 -- Updated 0229 GMT (1029 HKT)
Aspiring Chinese comics performing in Shanghai's underground comedy scene hope to bring stand-up to the masses.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1654 GMT (0054 HKT)
Liu Wen is one of the world's highest-paid models and the first Chinese face to crack the top five in Forbes' annual list of top earners.
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Cunning wolf? Working class hero? Or bland Beijing loyalist? C.Y. Leung was a relative unknown when he came to power in 2012.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
App hopes to help those seeking a way out of China's overstrained public health system.
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 0020 GMT (0820 HKT)
Yards from pro-democracy protests, stands the Hong Kong garrison of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), China's armed forces.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
The massive street rallies that have swept Hong Kong present a major dilemma for China's leadership.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 0707 GMT (1507 HKT)
Chinese wine drinkers need to develop a taste for the cheap stuff, not just premium red wines like Lafite.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0109 GMT (0909 HKT)
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, set off a media kerfuffle this month when he spoke about his next reincarnation.
September 28, 2014 -- Updated 1418 GMT (2218 HKT)
He's one of the fieriest political activists in Hong Kong — he's been called an "extremist" by China's state-run media — and he's not old enough to drive.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0257 GMT (1057 HKT)
China has no wine-making tradition but the country now uncorks more bottles of red than any other.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 0929 GMT (1729 HKT)
Christians in eastern China keep watch in Wenzhou, where authorities have demolished churches and removed crosses.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0538 GMT (1338 HKT)
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.