Police seized leaflets, video discs, books and other apocalyptic materials in the recent arrests of more than 500 people across eight provinces and regions, from the prosperous east coast to less developed western China, state media reports said.China For Jesus has the lowdown on the cult's bizarre beliefs and recruitment tactics.
Those detained are reported to be 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 targeting Christians, kidnapping and beating them to force conversions.
Eastern Lightning first appeared around 20 years ago, and the official Xinhua News Agency said that 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."
A public notice on the web site of Qinghai provincial government said local police are waging a "severe crackdown" on the group described as a cult with "strong political penchants." The government urged the public to inform the police of any illegal propaganda, gathering and preaching by the group.
An interesting side note, apparently the man who attacked those 23 children in central China, Ming Yongjun, was "psychologically affected by" rumors of the end of the world.
Prior to the attack, Yongjun said that he was locked in his house by his father after he had an epileptic seizure, but eventually fled his house. He added that an elderly woman told villagers in his hometown that "the end of the world is coming and the Earth will explode".
I'm not sure if that old woman was a member of the Eastern Lightning cult or not.
Chinese officials consider the church anti-government and therefore a threat, since part of their doomsday scenario includes exterminating:
".... the great red dragon" _ a reference to the Communist Party _ "and found a country under the rule of Almighty God."
This Time.com article from 2001 gives first hand accounts of how they recruit followers.