Hundreds of Christians held in China over end of world fears

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More than 500 people from a fringe Christian group who spread rumours about the world’s impending end have been arrested in China.

In Qinghai province alone police held more than 400 members.

Officers seized leaflets, CDs, books and other apocalyptic materials across eight provinces and regions, from the prosperous east coast to less developed western China.

The detentions come ahead of Friday, December 21 – a date some say the Mayans prophesied would be the end of the world.

Those held are members of the group Almighty God, which is also called Eastern Lightning, after a phrase from the Bible’s Book of Matthew. Widely regarded as a heretical Christian sect, the group preaches that Jesus has reappeared as a woman in central China.

It has been accused of kidnapping and beating people to force conversions.

Eastern Lightning, described by officials as a cult with “strong political penchants” first appeared around 20 years ago, and the official Xinhua News Agency said its members had “recently latched on to the Mayan doomsday prophesy”.