Missing Chinese rights lawyer appears on state TV

Mr Zhang was detained shortly before a planned meeting in August with the US ambassador for international religious freedom.
Mr Zhang was detained shortly before a planned meeting in August with the US ambassador for international religious freedom. PHOTO: YOUTUBE

He confesses to getting Christians to protest over demolition of crosses

BEIJING • A well-known Chinese rights lawyer has appeared on state television confessing to crimes after a months-long disappearance, the latest case in China's widening crackdown on dissent.

Mr Zhang Kai had represented a group of Christians who were detained for suspected financial crimes last year after they resisted the demolition of crosses.

Heavily Christian Wenzhou, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, was the site of protests in 2014 over a government campaign to demolish crosses.

On a news programme on state-controlled Wenzhou TV on Thursday night, Mr Zhang confessed to encouraging Christians to get together to "protect their rights" after the authorities removed crosses from churches.

"I really regret doing these things, I feel very remorseful," he said. "These things violated China's law and violated my personal integrity as a lawyer, and they harmed societal structure and national security."

Police in Wenzhou could not be reached for comment and Mr Zhang's exact location was not clear.

SHOW OF REMORSE

These things violated China's law and violated my personal integrity as a lawyer, and they harmed societal structure and national security.

MR ZHANG KAI, in a confession on state-controlled Wenzhou TV .

In October, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Mr Zhang was detained shortly before a planned meeting in August with Mr David Saperstein, the US ambassador for international religious freedom, who was visiting China.

Suspects accused of crimes in high-profile cases are often shown confessing on Chinese state television. Rights groups have said these confessions, which usually take place long before a trial, violate the rights of the accused to due process.

The authorities in the region have said crosses are removed because they violate regulations against illegal structures. Rights groups say demolishing crosses restricts Christianity and religious freedoms. Communist China officially guarantees freedom of religion though the authorities are sometimes suspicious of religious groups.

Last week, UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein called on China to release about 250 detained human rights lawyers, legal assistants and activists "immediately and without conditions".

China invited international censure after it detained and expelled Swedish human rights activist Peter Dahlin, who had aided Chinese lawyers, after parading him on state television confessing to breaking the law.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2016, with the headline 'Missing Chinese rights lawyer appears on state TV'. Print Edition | Subscribe