Chinese police on Sunday detained more than 100 churchgoers who tried to hold an outdoor prayer service on a pedestrian bridge in Beijing after having failed to secure permission to open a church.

Although it is not uncommon for police to raid unregistered churches, the bust in the very heart of the capital suggests that the dragnet around activists, bloggers, lawyers and intellectuals now includes Christian groups that in the past were able to slide under the radar.

The 18-year-old Shouwang Church, with a congregation of about 1,000, has been popular among young professionals and academics. In recent years it has complained that the government was pressuring landlords not to rent the group space in various hotels and office buildings where they wanted to hold services.

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