Zhang Kai, a Chinese Christian lawyer who was released in March after being detained while defending churches that were being forced to remove their crosses, has once again disappeared after he was summoned to the police station in China's northern Inner Mongolia yesterday morning.
According to persecution watchdog China Aid, shortly after Christmas, Zhang responded to a summons to a police station in Hohhot, and his mother claims that he has not yet returned nearly a week later. During this time, personnel from public security bureaus in Zhejiang, Wenzhou, Guizhou, and Inner Mongolia came to her house to have a "conversation." Her daughter also received a visit from the Beijing Municipal Public Security at her work place, and she refused to let them video her. They asked the women to urge Zhang to quietly cooperate with officials and said his ability to return home "depended on his attitude".
"Our family is in the midst of waiting anxiously," she wrote. "I hope Zhang Kai returns safely. Please pay urgent attention!"
As reported, Zhang was originally apprehended last August for legally representing about 100 churches affected by an ongoing cross demolition campaign in Zhejiang province. At the time of his arrest, Zhang was advising a church in Wenzhou, a region known as China's "Jerusalem" due to its large Christian population, according to the New York Times.
Zhang was charged with "gathering a crowd to disturb public order" and "stealing, spying, buying and illegally providing state secrets and intelligence to entities outside of China," prompting police to issue an order to place him under secret detention for up to six months.
In February, Zhang reappeared on state television, and confessed to his "crimes", apparently under coercion. He admitted to encouraging Christians to come together to "protect their rights" after the authorities removed crosses from churches.
"I really regret doing these things, I feel very remorseful," Zhang said. "These things violated China's law and violated my personal integrity as a lawyer, and they harmed societal structure and national security."
Shortly thereafter, he received a criminal detention sentence, which was cut short when he was released on bail on March 23. Since then, he has been living with his family in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia.
Communist China officially guarantees freedom of religion though ruling Communist Party officials are sometimes suspicious of religious and civic groups, fearing that opposition to its rule could be spread by groups outside its control. In May last year, President Xi Jinping called for religions to adapt to Chinese society, which he termed the "sinicization of religion."
Experts believe there are a staggering 60 million Protestants in China, divided between official and unregistered churches.