U.S. Ambassador speaks out against lawyer arrests and religious freedom abuses during travel to China

Thursday, September 3, 2015

China Aid
By Brynne Lawrence

(Beijing—Sept. 3, 2015) The United States Department of State published a statement that detailed Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein’s travel to China from Aug. 20-28, during which he expressed escalating alarm over China’s treatment of religious practitioners and human rights lawyers. His voice adds to the growing concern from the international community on religious freedom and human rights practices and policies in China.

The Associated Press (AP) wrote about Saperstein’s visit and noted that he condemned the Aug. 25 detentions of religious and human rights leaders, including lawyer Zhang Kai, as a “particularly alarming development,” considering that he was slated to meet with some of the leaders during his visit.

Zhang Kai’s arrest marks the second time in the last two months that he has been interrogated by Chinese authorities; the first was during a coordinated campaign of human rights lawyer arrests. In July, Chinese authorities apprehended hundreds of lawyers, including Wang Yu and Li Heping as part of a crackdown on attorneys specializing in human rights defense. At present, all three have been sentenced to serve time in a so-called “black jail,” a clandestine holding cell.

Ambassador Saperstein also addressed religious freedom abuses occurring across China. He highlighted the cross removals in Zhejiang, the harassment of unregistered religious groups, and the persecution of Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims.

Most recently, authorities arrested Yan Xiaojie, a pastor who utilized text messages to request prayer concerning ongoing cross demolitions. Saperstein stated that many of the religious leaders he met had been detained or otherwise persecuted despite the Chinese government’s encouragement that he note their religious freedom policies. He termed this dichotomy “outrageous.”

Speaking of those imprisoned for their religious beliefs or human rights advocacy, Saperstein said, “These actions have caused our great concern. We call on Beijing to immediately release these human rights activists and religious leaders.”

China Aid advocates for religious freedom and related human rights for Chinese citizens and joins Ambassador Saperstein in demanding Xi Jinping’s administration promptly and unconditionally cease violating basic human rights and immediately release Zhang Kai, Wang Yu, Yan Xiaojie and Li Heping.

China Aid launched the Chinese cross campaign in August to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and continues to advocate for the rights of all Chinese citizens.

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Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
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