Relaymedia

Christian Human Rights Lawyer Fears Another Arrest Due to Work Defending Chinese Churches

( [email protected] ) Mar 29, 2018 10:55 AM EDT
Prominent Chinese human rights lawyer and Christian Zhang Kai fears that he may face a second imprisonment -- a plight he fears he "may not be able to endure" -- due to his legal defense of churches that faced cross demolition.
Zhang Kai was held by authorities in August 2015, hours before he had planned to attend a meeting on religious freedom with a US envoy. AP photo

Prominent Chinese human rights lawyer and Christian Zhang Kai fears that he may face a second imprisonment -- a plight he fears he "may not be able to endure" -- due to his legal defense of churches that faced cross demolition.

According to persecution watchdog China Aid, a prosecutor from Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, summoned Zhang from his home in Inner Mongolia to the city for interrogation earlier this month. In a series of Facebook posts, Zhang expressed fear he will not be able to endure another prison sentence.

"I admit that my body is weak. If I am arrested again, I may not be able to endure the detention," he wrote, according to a translation provided by China Aid. "All interviews and videos taped after my detention cannot represent my real opinions. I will try to hold on."

He later wrote, "I did not commit any crime. The only reason I am persecuted is that I helped the churches to safeguard their legal rights during the cross demolition movement in Wenzhou. I hope the (Christian) brothers and sisters from the church can take care of my parents and visit them frequently (in the event of my arrest)."

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.

Last 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. In a statement on March 24, 2018, Zhang said that the torture in jail was unbearable, and "Like rats, criminals had no dignity, and I almost died."

Chinese President Xi Jinping has expressed a desire to "Sinicize" religion, meaning the country should promote and guide religion that is Chinese in orientation.

In recent years, hundreds of Christians, including pastors, lawyers, and activists, have been arrested for speaking out against the ongoing persecution, and many of them are still detained. Human rights attorneys who provide legal support to churches in China have also been subjected to police brutality and coerced into confessing on television that they have disturbed the peace, and jeopardized national security.

Last week, a Chinese Christian woman, Zhou Jinxia, was arrested after she traveled from Liaoning province to Beijing and attempted to preach to President Jinping, holding a sign that read, "God loves the people of the world and is calling out to Xi Jinping."

Earlier this month, Father Francis Liu, a Chinese priest, shared a video showing local officials tearing down crosses from the Shangqiu Catholic Church South Cathedral during a major raid in Henan -- even though the cathedral was sanctioned by the government.

China ranks 43rd on Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution.

Tags : China, China Aid, Zhang Kai, Christian, house church, Chinese house church, three-self church, chinese christian persecution