Christian lawyer Zhang Kai was taken away by government workers on Tuesday night, his colleague said, as authorities have been carrying out orders to remove crosses from church roofs across the city.
Yang Xingquan said in an Associated Press report yesterday that not even Zhang’s family had heard from him, two days after he was apprehended.
Zhang was one of the lawyers offering legal assistance for Zhejiang churches targeted in a government “clean-up” campaign that has resulted in thousands of crosses being taken down from local Christians’ places of worship and some of the buildings being completely demolished.
AP reports that Zhang and his assistant were escorted away by government workers while in a church in Wenzhou, known as “China’s Jerusalem” due to its large Christian population, on Tuesday night.
“Calls to Wenzhou police were hung up upon the mention of the lawyer,” the report said.
Bob Fu, founder and president of ChinaAid, has urged for the immediate releases of Zhang, his assistant Liu Peng and other pastors who’ve been detained in a statement published to Facebook yesterday.
“The recent unjustified escalated persecution against Chinese churches is a complete contradiction to both what the Chinese own Constitution enshrines and its international commitment to religious freedom,” he wrote. “The arbitrary detention and forced disappearance of human rights lawyer Zhang Kai and dozens of pastors in Zhejiang represents a new low on the rule of law in China. They did nothing but to legally defend hundreds of church’s crosses from being barbarically demolished.”
Fu further called on the international community to put pressure on China over “the total disregard of basic human rights and religious freedom”.
Huang Yizi, a Protestant preacher who spoke out against church demolitions in Wenzhou, was sentenced to a year in jail in March for “gathering crowds to disturb public order”.
Zhang, Huang’s lawyer at the time, told reporters that he thought “the whole trial was manipulated by the authorities”.
Residents of Wenzhou said in the AP report that at least 11 pastors and church members had been taken away in the past week.
[Image via Facebook // HKFP]]