UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News


China parades Christian lawyer in TV 'confession'

Critics brand Zhang Kai video scripted, accuse Beijing of 'flipping truth on its head'

ucanews.com reporters, Beijing and Hong Kong

ucanews.com reporters, Beijing and Hong Kong

Updated: February 26, 2016 08:27 AM GMT
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
China parades Christian lawyer in TV 'confession'

Christian lawyer Zhang Kai is paraded on TV to 'confess' to disturbing public order in this screen grab.

Share this article :
A Christian lawyer who tried to help prevent a wave of church cross removals by Chinese authorities has appeared on television to "confess" to disturbing public order and endangering state security.

Broadcast on Feb. 25, the six-month anniversary of his detention, Zhang Kai said he was  "deeply remorseful" in a video shown on a semiofficial news site.

It was the latest in a series of videoed "confessions" in China criticized as a mockery of justice by rights groups.

"I violated national law, disrupted social order, endangered national security and violated the professional code of conduct for lawyers," Zhang was shown saying on camera.

The 11-minute clip included Zhang's vanished assistant Liu Peng, the public security officer handling his case and even local Christians in Wenzhou condemning him.

Zhang's case caused an international outcry including from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry when the rights lawyer was detained in late August, the day before he was due to meet U.S. religious freedom envoy David Saperstein.

Two weeks earlier he posted a message on Chinese social media site WeChat expressing determination to use China's own laws to represent churches trying to halt a government campaign in Zhejiang that has resulted in about 1,700 cross removals since late 2013.

"I've made up my mind: the most they can do is jail me. But if I stay silent, I'll regret it my whole life," he wrote.

It remains unclear whether Zhang has been formally charged with any crime. His televised appearance coincides with the six-month period Chinese authorities are legally permitted to hold a suspect without charge.

Zhang's father, who was also understood to be in Wenzhou Public Security Bureau custody on Feb. 26, did not answer his mobile phone to comment.

Among the accusations Zhang cites in the video clip are apparent links to and funding from overseas organizations, a catch-all charge in China designed to cut rights advocates off from foreign support.

Zhang names Bob Fu, the director of Washington D.C.-based Christian rights group China Aid, and Fenggang Yang, director of Purdue University's Center on Religion and Chinese Society.

Both Fu and Fenggang denied any wrongdoing and condemned Beijing over Zhang's treatment.

"Although China Aid is mentioned in the shameful Chinese Communist Party's official propaganda as 'overseas forces supporting Zhang Kai's legal defense work,' we will never be intimidated nor cease to continue to promote religious freedom for all in China," Fu said in a statement.

Fu previously hosted Zhang in Washington D.C. where he spoke to U.S. politicians about worsening religious freedoms in China.

Fenggang said Zhang had also spent a year as a visiting scholar at Purdue during the 2013-2014 academic year.

Describing Zhang as a "friend," Fenggang said there was no credible evidence in the case and urged Chinese authorities to release a lawyer who was simply doing his job.

"His purported confession appears to me to be scripted and he appears to be physically exhausted," Fenggang told ucanews.com.

Zhang's appearance represents the latest in a recent spate of televised "confessions" in China that has coincided with the detention of hundreds of lawyers and their family members last summer.

Last month, Reporters Without Borders urged the European Union to impose sanctions on China's state media for "peddling lies" after the televised confession of Swedish rights activist Peter Dahlin, who was later deported.

"Sadly, Zhang Kai's scripted confession was completely predictable for anyone who has been paying attention to the way China has been cracking down on human rights lawyers and civil society over the past year or two," said William Nee, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Amnesty International.

"Once again, the Chinese authorities have flipped the truth on its head."


Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
UCA Newsletter
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter

Also Read

UCA News Podcast
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution