David Saperstein, US ambassador at-large for international religious freedom, has called on China to release Christian lawyer Zhang Kai, his assistant and other church figures who were taken away by authorities last month.
Zhang, a lawyer offering legal assistance for Zhejiang churches targeted in a province-wide cross-removal campaign, was detained along with his assistant Liu Peng last week—just before Saperstein had planned to meet with him on his visit to China.
Saperstein called the government’s actions a “particularly alarming development,” according to SCMP, adding that “there can be no excuse for the detention of these religious figures who either met with me or tried to meet with me”.
He has urged for the government to release some 10 detainees, including Zhang, Liu and several pastors who’ve been taken away in the past weeks, ahead of Xi Jinping’s visit to the US this month.
Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, who has also been demanding for China to release around 20 women prisoners of conscience, said that human rights issues would be “a key core issue when President Xi visits Washington”.