CHINA: ATTORNEY ZHANG KAI 'DISAPPEARED'
By Elizabeth Kendal
In January 2014 the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) secretary in the southern coastal province Zhejiang, Xia Baolong, suddenly noticed Zhejiang's many 'conspicuous' churches and crosses. [RLPB 255 (9 April 2014)] To 'rectify the problem', a campaign was launched to de-Christianise the skyline under the guise of a safety and beautification project. By August 2015 between 1200 - 1500 churches had been impacted [RLPB 324 (26 Aug 2015)], several pastors had been arrested and numerous believers had been wounded in scuffles with police. In April 2015, as the campaign lurched into its second year and casualties were mounting, prominent Beijing-based Christian lawyer Zhang Kai (37) wrote on his blog: 'Seeking justice, promoting reconciliation and advancing rule of law are an historic mission, called for by God, that Christian lawyers must answer and cannot shirk. Confronted with cases of oppression of Christian belief, more Christian lawyers are willing to withstand the pressure and walk alongside those who suffer.'
In early July CCP authorities launched a massive crackdown against human rights lawyers and activists. [RLPB 318 (15 July 2015).] Within days, some 230 prominent human rights lawyers and activists had been detained and harassed, some were being held incommunicado and others had 'disappeared'. Amongst the lawyers were some who have defended religious cases, including the churches under attack in Zhejiang. By this time, Zhang was residing in Xialing Church, Wenzhou, advising churches and formulating a legal strategy. On 10 July state security police took him away, interrogated him through the night and warned him not to get involved. An officer sought to remind Zhang that he did not have any powerful connections. 'You're wrong,' he replied. 'I have God as my backer.'
On 14 July -- as the CCP was rounding up prominent human rights lawyers -- Zhang Kai announced the formation of 'Lawyers for Protection of the Cross', a group of some 30 Christian lawyers from across the country who would be taking on the Zhejiang church cases. [RLPB 319 (22 July 2015).] By this stage, Zhang was providing pro bono legal advice to more than 100 Protestant churches facing the removal of their crosses and the detention of pastors, lay preachers and church members.
|Zhang Kai (centre) on 25 Aug. |
On Tuesday 25 August Chinese security forces conducted simultaneous night raids in Wenzhou in which they seized Zhang Kai, his assistant Liu Peng and several Wenzhou pastors. Yang Xinquan, the director of Beijing Xinqiao Law Firm and Zhang Kai's employer, has posted a full report of Zhang's activities. Yang also confirms that nobody has been informed of Zhang's condition or whereabouts -- not even his family. He believes the government is sending a message that this is what happens to lawyers who work against the CCP. Local people report that at least eleven pastors and preachers have been detained in Wenzhou in the past week. On 25 August Pastor Yan Xiaojie forwarded prayer requests regarding the situation in Zhenjiang on the Chinese messaging service WeChat. The next day he was arrested and given an eight-day administrative sentence (no formal charges required). The authorities accused him of 'disturbing the public order' by spreading 'fiction' and attacking the government.
Previously, on 8 August, Zhang had shared his thinking with his friends on WeChat: 'I've made up my mind,' he said, 'the most they can do is jail me. But if I stay silent, I'll regret it my whole life.' Unfortunately we know from the experience of another prominent, internationally acclaimed Christian human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng (51), that jail is not 'the most they can do'. When the CCP released Gao in August 2014 he was a totally broken man -- pale, skeletal, limping, his teeth and hair falling out, unable to string a sentence together because of years of torture, starvation and solitary confinement. The message from the CCP: 'This is what happens to lawyers who work against the CCP.' [RLPB 275 (27 Aug 2014)]
Yang Xinquan (Zhang's employer) is assembling a legal team for Zhang Kai's defence. Citing information from police and Christians in Wenzhou, Yang said Zhang reportedly has been charged with endangering state security and assembling a crowd to disrupt social order, leading to an order being issued that could see Zhang spend six months in secretive detention. Grave concerns are held for his safety.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT
* wherever Zhang Kai is, God's promised presence will be palpable, the Holy Spirit's counsel will be comforting, and Christ's love will be all-consuming. 'And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.' (Jesus in Matthew 28:20b ESV)
The Steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion', says my soul, 'therefore I will trust in him.' (Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV)
* the sovereign Lord will take up Zhang Kai's cause (Lamentations 3:58).
* God will sustain, protect and bless all the human rights lawyers and pastors presently jailed, 'disappeared' and under threat in China.
* the God of the Cross will redeem this evil and turn it to good. May the Lord open eyes, that more and more Chinese might reject the dangerous, amoral vacuity of atheistic consumerism. May the Lord open hearts, that more and more Chinese might find wisdom, goodness and truth in Jesus Christ.
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN WHOLE ARTICLE
IN CHINA, ATTORNEY ZHANG KAI 'DISAPPEARED'
On 25 August Chinese police conducted night raids in Wenzhou (also known as 'China's Jerusalem') in which several pastors were seized along with prominent Christian attorney Zhang Kai and his assistant Liu Peng. In July, as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was rounding up human rights lawyers, Zhang announced the formation of a group of some 30 Christian lawyers who would defend churches under attack in the southern coastal province of Zhejiang. He called the group 'Lawyers for Protection of the Cross'. Citing information from police and Christians in Wenzhou, Zhang's employer Yang Xinquan said Zhang reportedly has been charged with national security offences. This could see Zhang spend six months in secretive detention. Grave concerns are held for his safety. Please pray for China, its believers and Christian lawyers.
Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).