Advocacy group Release International is calling for a Chinese Christian lawyer to be set free, having expressed fears that he may be tortured into a false confession.
Release has warned that Beijing lawyer Zhang Kai, who was defending churches against moves to tear down their crosses, was seized by officials and, according to partners in Wenzhou, may be charged with spying.
Release partner China Aid claimed that Zhang has been accused of ‘gathering a mob to disturb public order and stealing, collecting, purchasing and illegally providing state secrets and intelligence to overseas organisations’. China Aid fears Zhang may be tortured into producing a false confession.
He is not the only one. Since July, China has rounded up and detained some 230 human rights lawyers and activists. The communist media has mounted a high-profile campaign against them, branding them as corrupt and criminal.
Paul Robinson, chief executive of Release International, said, ‘It is deeply worrying to see a nation such as China rounding up its lawyers, and claiming it is doing so to uphold the rule of law.
‘Release is adding its voice to the growing numbers calling for the immediate release of Zhang Kai. As a growing world power, China should embrace, rather than oppose, those who stand up for justice and righteousness under the law’.
Although there is a strong Christian presence in Zhejiang province, the communist authorities there have been demolishing churches and have pulled down some 1200 crosses. International observers believe the clampdown against visible signs of Christianity is intended to slow the rapid growth of the faith in China.
Mr Robinson added: ‘The authorities appear afraid that Chinese Christians could have divided loyalties and that human rights campaigners who mount legal challenges in the courts are undermining the authority of the Communist Party. Neither is the case’.