Police in China have carried out further arrests of members of a doomsday cult for spreading rumours about the imminent end of the world, state media say.
Almost 1,000 members of Christian group Almighty God have now been detained.
State media terms Almighty God an “evil cult” – the same description it applies to the banned Falun Gong group.
The sect predicts Friday will usher in three days of darkness and has urged its members to overthrow communism.
Its adherents believe 21 December is the last day in the Mayan long count calendar and thus signifies the end of the world.
The belief has gained considerable popularity in China where the film 2012 was a box office hit.
It is not just followers of Almighty God who think the world will end on Friday. A farmer in Hebei province, Liu Qiyuan has built seven survival pods which can contain 14 people each.
Farmer Liu Qiyuan has built seven survival pods in which people can ride out the Apocalypse, if it happens.
The pods, made of fibreglass, float on water and can survive storms.
Mr Liu told Agence France Press: “If there really is some kind of apocalypse then you could say I’ve made a contribution to the survival of humanity,”
To calm anxieties, police in Beijing have posted an online notice telling people that “the so-called end of the world is a rumour”.
Almighty God has told its believers that the apocalypse will usher in a new era presided over by a “female Jesus”, according to the Chinese newspaper Global Times.
The group has been attacked by Chinese media which variously accuses female members of using “sex communication” to ensnare single men, of banning followers from carrying mobile phones and of using pseudonyms to conceal their real identities.
Little is known about the group, which state media said was formed about 20 years ago in the central Henan province.
Most of the arrests have been in the provinces of Qinghai and Guizhou, the Beijing Times reported.
- China makes 500 doomsday cult arrests (chinadailymail.com)
- Doomsday comes to China (chinadailymail.com)
- Mayan apocalypse: China arrests nearly 1,000 doomsday ‘cult’ members (telegraph.co.uk)
- China arrests over doomsday rumors (edition.cnn.com)
- Beijing’s Doomsday Problem (nybooks.com)