China released a human rights attorney from prison on March 23. Zhang Kai was reportedly kept in a high security “black jail” cell for roughly seven months.
Zhang is known for defending Christian churches in China and fought to allow churches to display crosses, reports Christian Today. He also gave legal counsel to Christian priests who were threatened with government censorship.
Zhang was arrested by Chinese authorities on Aug. 25, 2015, just before he was scheduled to meet with the American ambassador for religious freedom.
On March 23, the attorney posted on social media that he had been released from prison and was at home in Inner Mongolia.
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“I am thankful for all the friends who were concerned about me during this time and who looked after and comforted my family members,” Zhang’s post read, according to Christian Today.
Zhang reportedly appeared on Chinese state media admitting to charges of “disturbing the public order” and “endangering state secrets." Many of Zhang's supporters believe the Chinese government coerced him into confessing.
Other human rights lawyers have also been arrested by Chinese authorities, and Zhang’s arrest is part of the Chinese state’s sweeping efforts to reign in religious organizations, NGO Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported.
From July 2015 to January, at least 15 Chinese attorneys were arrested on charges of “subverting state power” or “inciting subversion of state power."
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Many of the attorneys arrested are reportedly defenders of religious freedom in China. Attorneys Wang Yu and Li Heping were arrested after defending Christians and members of the Falun Gong religious organization in the Asian country.
CSW head Mervyn Thomas slammed China’s arrests of religious freedom attorneys.
“In China, lawyers and human rights activists have been instrumental in defending the rights of religious communities and in calling for further improvement of the protection of freedom of religion or belief,” Thomas said.
While the Chinese Communist Party is atheist, it does officially guarantee Chinese citizens “freedom of religious belief," reports CFR.
However, religious organizations in China are monitored by government officials who crack down on activity that “disrupts public order."