The United States is concerned about ongoing abuses of religious freedom in China. At a press briefing, Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner cited as a recent example the detention of prominent Christian human rights lawyer Zhang Kai who, with his assistants, was taken away by police on August 25 in the southeastern city of Wenzhou.
A Beijing-based lawyer, Mr. Zhang had been advising a number of Christian churches in their fight against a government campaign in Zhejiang province to remove crosses and demolish churches.
Reportedly he is now facing up to six months in secretive detention on suspicion of threatening state security and creating a disturbance.
The detention of Mr. Zhang demonstrates that China’s crackdown on human rights lawyers and its repression of religious freedom is continuing.
U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein recently traveled to China to discuss religious freedom with Chinese government officials, religious leaders and civil society representatives.
The State Department reported that Ambassador Saperstein noted some positive developments in China, including the growth of religious communities in the country, and a significant increase in the contributions of faith-based organizations to Chinese society.
But the State Department noted that Ambassador Saperstein “also raised a number of concerns regarding the Chinese government’s human rights violations pertaining to religious freedom. [He] called for an end to the ongoing campaign of cross removals and church demolitions in Zhejiang province and an end to harassment of members of unregistered religious groups. He urged Chinese authorities to reassess counterproductive policies, including restrictions on the religious practice of Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims."
In addition, the State Department reported that Ambassador Saperstein conveyed the U.S. government’s “deep concern over the recent detention of many human rights defenders and religious leaders.”
The United States wants to see Zhang Kai released, along with all Chinese citizens who are being detained and persecuted because of their exercise of the fundamental human rights of freedom of religion, expression and assembly. China, like all nations, must recognize that protecting and promoting those freedoms make up the foundation of every stable, prosperous, and just society.