Anger as Christian lawyer paraded on Chinese state TV for ‘confession’


Source: The Guardian

Supporters of a prominent Christian lawyer who was taken into secret detention after opposing a Communist party cross-removal campaign are demanding his release after he became the latest Chinese human rights defender to be paraded on television for an alleged “confession”.

Zhang Kai, 36, was seized by security forces in August 2015 just hours before a planned meeting with the US ambassador-at-large for religious freedom at which he had intended to denounce a government crackdown on churches in Zhejiang province.

Activists believe the decision to arrest the Bible-carrying attorney was designed to silence Zhang’s outspoken criticism of what they have dubbed China’s “anti-cross” campaign. Church groups say the campaign has affected more than 1,200 places of worship since it began in 2013.

Zhang had not been seen since his detention on 25 August but on Thursday evening he appeared in a televised “confession” broadcast by the state-controlled channel Wenzhou TV.

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In an extended report, Zhang, who is the father of a baby girl, admitted to crimes including disrupting social order and endangering China’s national security.

The Christian lawyer said: “I also warn those so-called human rights lawyers to take me as a warning and not collude with foreigners, take money from foreign organisations, or be engaged in activities that break the law or harm national security and interests.”

Chinese media reports accused Zhang, who at the time of his arrest had been offering legal support to churches that faced having their crosses torn down, of being the “mastermind” behind a number “illegal religious gatherings”.

On Friday Zhang’s supporters rejected the televised “confession”, something observers say has become a trademark of president Xi Jinping’s escalating crackdown on dissent.

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