CHINA PETITION – ‘REPEAL TOUGH NEW RESTRICTIONS’ – RELEASE
Release launches a petition calling for the repeal of tough new anti-religion laws in China that have led to a rise in persecution.
Release partners say persecution in China is on the rise. And it’s not just Christians and church leaders who face harassment from the authorities. They’ve been rounding up lawyers, too.
Three years have passed since the Chinese authorities arrested more than 700 lawyers, including Christians who defended the rights of the poor and needy in the courts.
Some have disappeared, some have been accused of spying, and it’s feared some may have been tortured into making televised ‘confessions’.
The authorities cracked down on hundreds of lawyers in 2015. They included Christian Zhang Kai who had been mounting a legal defence to prevent the authorities from tearing down a cross.
Officials are said to have removed some 1800 crosses from churches in the coastal Zhejiang Province alone.
Zhang formed a group of lawyers to mount legal opposition against the cross removals. He was arrested shortly before a meeting with the United States Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.
Zhang was arrested three years ago on August 25, 2015. He was taken to a so-called ‘black jail’, one of a number of centres where the authorities are said to torture suspects.
He was held under suspicion of ‘stealing, spying, buying, and illegally providing state secrets and intelligence to foreigners.’
It has become common practice for China to accuse lawyers and Christian activists of being enemies of the state. They can then deny legal representation – which is what happened to Zhang.
Six months later, Zhang Kai made a public confession on state-run television to charges of ‘endangering state security’ and ‘gathering a crowd to disturb public order’. It’s believed his confession was made under coercion.
Two years ago, in August 2016, he recanted statements that he said he had been forced to make about a fellow human rights lawyer.
After Zhang was released on bail he was forced to return to his hometown in inner Mongolia. And in March this year, he said the authorities had forced his Beijing law firm to fire him.
According to the pressure group, China Change, the authorities have been preventing lawyers under suspicion from getting work in order to force their licences to lapse. This makes it illegal for them to practice law. China Change describes the crackdown against lawyers who try to defend basic human rights as ‘deliberate, coordinated and sweeping.’
To watch a Release video on persecution in China, featuring lawyers Zhang Kai and Jiang Tianyong, click here: Forbidden City.
Video of Zhang Kai.
Release partner Bob Fu believes the persecution of Christians in China is now at the highest level since the Cultural Revolution. He says there has been a fivefold increase in the number of Christians who were persecuted by the government in 2017. The authorities arrested 3,700 Christians, but harassed more than 220,000. And Bob Fu told the Washington Times: ‘That is just the tip of the iceberg.’
Release International is calling on China to repeal its new religious ordinance, which is in violation of China’s Constitution. Article 36 guarantees the right to religious freedom.
The Release petition to China expresses ‘deep concern at the growing and sustained campaign of repression being waged by government officials against the Christian church under regulations introduced in February 2018.’
The authorities have destroyed churches, arrested and imprisoned pastors and are forcing churches to replace their crosses with Chinese flags.
You can sign the petition on-line here