Almighty God founder Zhao Weishan, left, and Yang Xiangbin, his "female Christ." (Internet photo)
The supposed Mayan doomsday may have come and gone on Dec. 21, but the Chinese government is still cracking down on members of the religious cult that helped spread the prophecy across China, reports our Chinese-language sister paper Want Daily.
The "Almighty God" religion had been promoting the coming of the apocalypse on the streets of China since Dec. 7, leading to a full-scale crackdown by China's public security authorities that has already seen at least 500 arrests.
The religious organization was originally founded by Zhao Weishan in 1993 and currently has around 5,000 members in the provinces of Heilongjiang, Shandong, Henan, Anhui, Hebei and Shanxi and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Most of the religion's followers are said to be housewives from rural regions.
The cult preaches that those who serve the Almighty God will be spared from the apocalypse, which was supposed to take place on Friday, while those who stand in its way will be killed by lightning.
State-broadcaster CCTV has revealed Zhao to be a former physics teacher, while the woman promoted as the religion's "female Christ" and savior, Yang Xiangbin, is said to be no more than a mentally ill woman who became Zhao's mistress and puppet.
Zhao reportedly began promoting Yang as the Almighty God in the summer of 1993. After attracting the attention of authorities, the couple fled China in September 2000 and relocated to the US, where they established the organization's headquarters and continued to run the religion back home through the internet.
The structure of the organization is said to be very complex and contains multiple levels and layers. At the top of the pyramid, just below Yang and Zhao, is a group of "seven elders" that looks over the whole organization akin to how the Politburo Standing Committee oversees the Chinese Communist Party.
In his writings, Zhao refers to the Communist Party as the "big red dragon," leading to suggestions that the ultimate aim of the religion is to overturn the party to establish a new world order.
Zhao Weishan 趙維山
Yang Xiangbin 楊向彬