China arrests nearly 1,000 doomsday ‘cult’ members

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Updated 20 December 2012
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China arrests nearly 1,000 doomsday ‘cult’ members

BEIJING: China has arrested nearly 1,000 people in a crackdown on a Christian sect that spread doomsday rumors and targeted communist rule, state media said Thursday ahead of the supposedly Mayan-foretold apocalypse.
The group has been accused of spreading doomsday rumors 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 — have been held in a nationwide crackdown that began last week, state-run CCTV reported.
Police detained more than 350 members in the southwestern province of Guizhou, while in the northwestern province of Qinghai more than 400 were held for “gathering unlawfully,” the Beijing Times reported.
Smaller numbers have been held in other areas across the country.
The cult predicts that three days of darkness will begin on Friday, and has called on its members to overthrow China’s ruling 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 in China, thanks in part to the success of the Hollywood disaster film “2012,” which was inspired by the supposed Mayan prophecy.
Chinese state-run media have condemned the group in lurid detail, with the China Youth Daily reporting that the cult “even uses ‘sex communication,' calling on female members to use their sex appeal to seduce single men.”
The sect was founded in the early 1990s, but has remained secretive in the face of government intolerance of non-official religious groups.
Group members use pseudonyms such as “Little White Rabbit” or “Doggy” to conceal their identities, and are often not allowed to carry mobile phones or other communication devices, China Business View magazine reported.
China’s Communist Party does not tolerate challenges to its authority and has brutally cracked down on religious groups that refuse to toe the party line, including the Buddhist-inspired Falun Gong, which was banned in the late 1990s.
Authorities were shocked when Falun Gong was able to quietly mass thousands of silent protesters at key symbolic locations including Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and the central leadership compound of Zhongnanhai.
China has a long history of religiously-inspired anti-government movements, most notably the nineteenth century “Taiping Heavenly Kingdom,” led by a Christian convert who gathered millions of followers in an attempt to overthrow the emperor.
Earlier this week CCTV quoted police in Qinghai as saying their investigation into the sect was related to stability maintenance and would be linked to “our anti-self-immolation fight.”
The comment was a reference to nearly 100 Tibetans setting themselves on fire since 2009 in protest at China’s rule of its Tibetan-inhabited regions, which include Qinghai.


US offers $1m reward to locate journalist missing in Syria

Updated 29 min 59 sec ago
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US offers $1m reward to locate journalist missing in Syria

  • The FBI announced the $1m reward this week.
  • Tice, 36, is believed to the only American journalist currently held in Syria, one of the most dangerous countries for the news media in recent years.

Washington: The United States is offering a reward of $1 million for information about Austin Tice, an American journalist missing in Syria since 2012.
The FBI announced the reward this week, without any explanation on the timing.
“The timing of this reward is unrelated to any specific event,” an FBI spokeswoman said.
Tice, 36, is believed to the only American journalist currently held in Syria, one of the most dangerous countries for the news media in recent years.
A freelance journalist working for McClatchy News, the Washington Post, CBS, AFP and other news organizations, Tice was abducted in August 2012 near Damascus.
Tice’s family has launched several appeals for information about his whereabouts, saying they believe he is still alive.
In 2016, a #FreeAustinTice banner was attached to the facade of the Newseum, a museum focused on news media and located on the street linking the US Capitol and the White House.
An FBI statement on its website said it would offer the reward “for information leading directly to the safe location, recovery, and return” of Tice.
The agency created an email address [email protected] and said anyone with information could also use the website tips.fbi.gov or contact any US consulate.