09/02/2015, 00.00
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The US calls on Beijing to "immediately" release jailed Christian lawyer and pastors

Dave Saperstein, American envoy with responsibility on religious freedom, was to meet with religious leaders and activists committed to freedom of worship. The night before a raid was triggered by the authorities: "A particularly alarming development".

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The US government has called on China to release a group of Christian activists and lawyers, who were arrested on the eve of a meeting with a US official on the issue of religious freedom.

The detainees include the brave Christian lawyer Zhang Kai - at the forefront in the defense of the crosses of Zhejiang - but also Protestant pastors and human rights activists. These were supposed to meet on Aug. 26, 2015 with Dave Saperstein, American envoy with responsibility on religious freedom. The night before a raid was triggered.

For Saperstein, it is a "particularly alarming development. These detentions fit into the disturbing pattern of state intimidation of public interest lawyers, internet activists, journalists, religious leaders. Also other people that I have met, or tried to, have suffered harassment of some kind".

The US government – he said talking to journalists - "Demands the immediate release of these activists, who boldly underline the precariousness of the religious life in China."

The campaign of arrests against the personalities who try to defend human rights in the country began in early July 2015. According to Christian sources, at least 11 pastors of Zhejiang - the southern province at the center of the cross demolition campaign - have disappeared into thin air . About 200 lawyers and dissidents are in jail.

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