The People’s Republic of China, like the rest of the world, still existed as of 19:30 PST on December 21st, 2012. U.F.O.-watchers had gathered in Hunan, anti-cult organisations had issued reassuring text messages, and the United Nations’ had denied on its official Sina Weibo account that it sold tickets for an ark. Meanwhile, the number of ‘Almighty God’ “cultists” detained by authorities reached 1,000 on Thursday. From Reuters:
In recent weeks, hundreds of members of the Almighty God group have clashed with police, sometimes outside government buildings, in central Henan, northern Shaanxi and southwestern 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 which has been spreading doomsday alerts related an old Mayan calendar seen by some as predicting “the end of the world” on December 21.
Police have now detained around 1,000 members the Almighty God group across some seven provinces, the People’s Daily reported on its website on Thursday, saying about 400 of them had been detained in the remote western province of Qinghai.
The group is also accused, according to Global Times, of “encouraging people to donate all of their belongings” to its leaders before the end arrived, a strategy also suggested by sceptical astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
At The New York Review of Books, Ian Johnson argued that the crackdown reflects the Beijing’s growing uncertainty in the face of a broader religious resurgence.
It would be easy to see this as just a Chinese version of the global Mayan craze. And given the problems facing Xi Jinping, China’s new leader—among them a slowing economy and escalating tensions with maritime neighbors—groups like the Almighty God might seem like a sideshow.
But this would be a mistake. Following decades
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