Lawyer for Chinese Christian communities is arrested

A lawyer representing hard-pressed Christian communities in the Chinese province of Zhejiang has been arrested.

Zhang Kai, of Beijing’s Xinqiao Law Firm, had travelled to Zhejiang to work fulltime in assisting communities directly affected by a drive to remove crosses and demolish church properties. Since late 2013, the campaign has affected some 1,200 church properties.

Having scored a number of successes and highlighting some apparent legal irregularities in the drive, Zhang was detained, along with his assistant, on the night of August 25. Police involved in the raid which detained them are also alleged to have taken computers and files containing signed agreements between Zhang and certain Christian communities which had approached him for help in resisting losses and demolitions. 

One of Zhang’s early successes was the reversal of a cross removal on Lingei church. No government representative or group would claim responsibility for the action and so Zhang declared the action a ‘theft’ and offered legal protection while worshippers worked to re-erect the cross to its original position.

In a similar case in the village of Huzhou, upon hearing of a plan to demolish a church cross, Zhang declared his intention to sue local authorities should they proceed with the action.

His law firm has protested about the detentions and called for the immediate release of Zhang and his intern, both of whom, they say, have valid legal accreditation.

The lawyers’ arrests came as Zhejiang authorities moved to detain more than a dozen Christian pastors amid fears that they were leading a growing resistance to the demolition programme.