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World Magazine: U.S. demands China release jailed Christian activist

Thursday, September 3, 2015

World Magazine
By June Cheng
Posted Sept. 2, 2015, 10:55 a.m.

The United States is demanding the release of a Chinese human rights lawyer who represented churches whose crosses the government tore down in a crackdown on Christianity. Zhang Kai was detained Aug. 25 and faces up to six months of secretive detention under accusations of endangering state security and “assembling a crowd to disrupt social order,” according to his colleagues. China Aid notes that these detentions often include torture.

Zhang and two assistants were taken from a Xialing church on Tuesday, a day before a planned meeting with Rabbi David Saperstein, U.S. ambassador at-large for religious freedom. About 10 other pastors have also been detained and accused of threatening public order and national security.

Saperstein called for the release of the detainees, saying the actions were “outrageous,” especially since Chinese authorities had encouraged his visit to examine religious freedom in the China: “In that context, there can be no excuse for the detention of these religious figures who either met with me or tried to meet with me.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to visit to the United States later this month. Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said human rights would be “a key core issue” during the visit ahead of the UN General Assembly.

The government cut down the cross of this church in 
Zhejiang province.
(Photo: Associated Press/Mark Schiefelbein)
Last year, Zhang represented Wenzhou pastor Huang Yizi after Huang protested the violent cross removal in Wenzhou by singing and praying outside a local public security bureau. Huang was sentenced to a year in prison for “gathering crowds to disturb social order,” yet in an interview with WORLD, Zhang called the entire trial process “unlawful.”

“Huang went to mobilize these Christians against the demolition. That is something that should be commended because originally the July 21 demolition was an illegal action,” Zhang said in March. “For a person to mobilize people against illegal conduct is appropriate and should be promoted in society rather then being seen as criminal.”

Since then, Zhang has counseled more than 100 churches facing cross removals and represented detained pastors and church members, Radio Free Asia reported. Zhang organized a group of more than 30 Christian lawyers to defend those churches and passed out copies of “Cross Activists Handbook” to inform churches of their rights under the Chinese constitution.

In the past few months, Zhejiang Christians have stepped up their civil disobedience campaigns against the cross removals, donning T-shirts with crosses, marching down the street, and making their own red crosses.

Authorities will not allow Li Guisheng, a lawyer representing Zhang, to meet with his client, as those under “residential confinement” are forbidden from any communication to the outside world.

Two weeks before Zhang was arrested, he posted on WeChat, a Chinese social media platform: “I’ve made up my mind: The most they can do is jail me. But if I stay silent, I’ll regret it my whole life.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

June Cheng

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"Bob Fu has dedicated his life to bringing freedom of religion to the Chinese people. His story is a testimony to the power of faith and an inspiration to people struggling to break free from oppression."
—Mrs. Laura Bush

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