08/28/2015, 00.00
CHINA
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Christian lawyer arrested over his involvement against cross removals in Zhejiang

Zhang Kai has been in police custody since Tuesday. He has led the legal fight to defend Christian rights in the province. His law firm of Beijing issued a note of protest against his detention. In recent days, scores of clergymen have been detained and interrogated. Government censorship against activists and religions is tightening.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Chinese police arrested a Christian lawyer, involved in a legal battle against the authorities over cross removals from churches in Zhejiang province.

Police agents reportedly jumped a wall at Xialing Church in Wenzhou Tuesday night to get to lawyer Zhang Kai and his intern assistant Liu Peng to take them into custody.

Over the past two days, police summoned or detained scores of Protestant clergymen, including Rev Wei Wenhai of Tengqiao Church, who recently make public his mobile phone number so that journalists could report on Christian persecution.

Zhang’s arrest (pictured, in the middle) is related to the legal battle waged against Zhejiang authorities.

For almost two years, the local branch of the Communist Party has waged a ‘Three Rectifications and One Demolition’ campaign against illegal buildings. In reality, the latter has targeted structures that were built with all the necessary permits.

Overall, between 1,200 and 1,500 buildings and crosses have been affected. Christian worshippers, priests, and bishops who have tried to resist have often ended up in prison.

For this reason, the Lingnei Church congregation hired Zhang Kai, a Beijing lawyer, to check the legal basis for the demolition order against their cross. Since he found that it had no legal justification, the cross had to be considered unjustly "stolen" and had to be put back in place.

Xinqiao Law Firm in Beijing, which employs Zhang and Liu, issued a statement protesting their arrests and demanding their immediate release.

Zhang had left Beijing to work on cross-removal cases full time in Wenzhou. For this purpose, he started a new group last month: Lawyers for the Protection of the Cross.

In recent weeks, more than 100 Churches have sought Zhang’s pro bono legal advice in a bid to protect their own crosses.

However, police seized copies of Zhang’s church agreements, case files and computer during the raid in which he was detained.

This follows the arrest or interrogation last month of more than 270 lawyers across China, an action that is part of an unprecedented crackdown by China’s Communist regime.

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