Mainland police have arrested nearly 1,000 people in the crackdown on a Christian sect that spread doomsday rumours and targeted communist rule, state media said ahead of the supposedly Mayan-foretold apocalypse.
The Christian-inspired group Almighty God has been accused of spreading doomsday rumours 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" - the same description it applies to the banned Falun Gong group - were held in a nationwide crackdown that began last week, CCTV said.
Police detained more than 350 Almighty God members in Guizhou province, while in Qinghai province more than 400 were held for "gathering unlawfully", Beijing Times reported. Smaller numbers have been held in other areas.
Almighty God predicts that three days of darkness will begin today, and has called on its members to overthrow the Communist Party, 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 on the mainland, thanks in part to the success of the Hollywood disaster film 2012, which was inspired by the supposed Mayan prophecy.