China Detains 169 for Praying in Public
Protestant group latest target of government clampdown
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Apr 11, 2011 11:10 AM CDT
Plainclothes security personnel film as they gather to load detained worshipers onto a waiting bus, April 10, 2011.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
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(Newser) – China’s weeks-long campaign against dissenters continues: Some 169 congregants of an unofficial Protestant church were detained yesterday after they tried to pray in public in Beijing, the New York Times reports. The thousand-member Shouwang church, which has for years sought official recognition, had been evicted from its rented space amid government pressure. Police barred some congregants from leaving home for the prayer session, which had been advertised online, and nabbed others as they arrived; four youths were beaten.

Church members were taken to a local school to be photographed and questioned. Most were released, but at least three are still being held, said church heads. China once tolerated unregistered churches, but has cracked down in recent years, even more so in recent weeks. The church's pastor had warned that “the challenges we face are massive.” Meanwhile, a 16-university debate tournament was canceled; it had called on students to “think deeper about nationalism, democracy, and livelihood” and “to keep fighting for the renovation and development of the nation.”