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(Uniformed and plainclothes police surround a man at the site of a proposed church gathering at a shopping area in Beijing April 10, 2011/David Gray)

Hundreds of Chinese police scrambled to prevent a planned outdoor service by a “homeless” church on Sunday, shoving people into vans and buses in the latest show of the Communist Party’s determination to smother dissent and protests. The Shouwang Church, a Protestant group with about 1,000 members, had urged members to gather for the outdoor service after they said official pressure forced the church out of a place of worship it had been renting.

But hundreds of police officers covered the area in the Zhongguancun commercial district, where the Shouwang Church had planned to worship, deterring any effort by church members and supporters to gather for the morning service.

The government has been alarmed about calls for protests inspired by anti-authoritarian uprisings across the Middle East, and that appears to have prompted Beijing to move against the church. Police cordoned off the broad, elevated walkway where a mobile phone text message said the service would happen.

Police and plain clothes guards took away dozens of people, although it was unclear how many were church members, supporters or bystanders. Police monitoring vans, bristling with antennae and communications dishes, stood nearby.