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China: Oh, those whacky Communists!

December 18, 2012

Over the past few weeks, the authorities have detained more than 90 people across seven provinces for spreading rumours that the world is about to end, laying bare the party’s obsession with social stability and maintaining its tight grip on power.

Many people in China believe in the so-called “Mayan apocalypse” – slated to take place on 21 December, the last day on the Mayan long count calendar – because it was the central premise of the disaster film 2012, a box office sensation in China when it was released three years ago.

A man who slashed 22 schoolchildren last week in Henan province was “psychologically affected” by doomsday rumours, wrote the state news wire Xinhua. Shoppers in Sichuan province have been panic buying candles, convinced that Friday will kick off three consecutive days of darkness.

Authorities in Qinghai province arrested 37 members of a group called the Church of the Almighty God for spreading doomsday rumours last Thursday, according to a provincial government website. The group, which was founded in 1992, believes that a female Jesus has been, or will be, reincarnated in mainland China. It has called for death to the “Big Red Dragon”, its term for the Communist party. Hundreds of its followers have clashed with police in three provinces over the past week…

The rapid rise of subversive, quasi-religious groups in China is not without precedent. The 19th-century Taiping Rebellion, a bloody uprising against the Manchu Qing emperor, was led by a peasant claiming to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ; his army at one point controlled a swath of the country which was home to 30 million people. The persecuted spiritual group Falun Gong – also labelled an evil cult by the authorities – operates an openly anti-communist newspaper and television station from overseas.

“There’s an incentive for politicians to strike back at these groups and their way of thinking, to reassure everyone that everything’s going to be all right,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, senior researcher at the Duihua Foundation in Hong Kong. “The most important thing is that they are sending a message of zero tolerance and trying to keep control.”


It’s hard to combat these beliefs, because the Mayan Calendar has been right so often before. Like when… or the time that…

But at least that’s better than colluding with the apocalysts.


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