CHINESE police have detained over 100 people for spreading rumours about the end of the world, state media reported today.
Many of those detained are said to be part of the fringe Christian group Almighty God, with police making arrests across eight provinces and regions, from the prosperous east coast to less developed western China.
Police seized leaflets, DVDs, books and other 'a'pocalyptic materials' from those arrested, with the items said to be based on the ancient Mayan civilisation's prophecy that the world would end this Friday, on December 21 2012.
And while China whispers, the USA is heading into full blown panic mode over the doomsday predictions.
Sales of bomb-proof 'survival bunkers' have reportedly gone through the roof, particularly in California where one manufacturer says purchases have risen from one per month to one per day.
Speaking with the Daily Mail, hi-tech recreational bomb shelter designer Ron Hubbard said: "I'll spend three days underground in the shelter just to be safe…I've sold shelters to astrophysicists who believe there is a possibility that we could be hit with a strong solar flare or large amounts of radiation."
Describing the sales hike, Mr Hubbard added: "We get a lot of people who buy the shelters as a form of insurance for the worst case scenario…We have gone from selling one a month to one a day in the past year since Obama's re-election."
Following the arrests in China, the Almighty God group has received global media attention.
Widely regarded as a heretical Christian sect, the group (also known as Eastern Lightning after a phrase from the Bible's Book of Matthew) preaches that Jesus has reappeared as a woman in central China. It has been accused of targeting Christians, kidnapping and beating them to force conversions.
Chinese society has been in tumult as decades of rapid free-market economic growth discredit communist ideology, loosen social controls and pull hundreds of millions from the countryside into cities.
Into the spiritual void have rushed traditional Buddhist groups and Daoist practices, as well as evangelical Christian churches and other spiritual groups, many with unorthodox and apocalyptic visions.
Eastern Lightning first appeared around 20 years ago, with the state run Xinhua news agency saying its members had “recently latched on to the Mayan doomsday prophesy to predict that the sun will not shine and electricity will not work for three days beginning on Dec. 21.”
The state-run Huashang website last week, citing local authorities, reported that the group is urging followers to “exterminate the great red dragon” — a reference to the Communist Party — “and found a country under the rule of Almighty God.”