#FreeZhangkai Campaign Website: www.freezhangkai.com
Human rights lawyer and Christian Zhang Kai has been held in police custody since August 25, 2015. Police climbed the walls of Xialing Church in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, where Zhang Kai was staying while he legally defended the church against the forced demolition of its cross, and took him into custody. Shortly after his apprehension, he was placed under “residential surveillance in a designated location,” better known as a “black jail”—a place where coercion tactics and torture are all too common.
February 25 marked the authorities’ six-month deadline to take legal action against Zhang Kai after taking him into custody. On February 26, Zhang Kai was criminally detained after a “confession,” which is speculated to have been coerced, aired on state-run television. Zhang Kai is charged with “endangering state security” and “gathering a crowd to disturb public order.”
Oct. 9, 2014: Xialing Church members thwarted Wenzhou authorities attempt to demolish the church’s cross. Instead, the authorities demolished part of the church’s outer wall, some windows, and a door.
July 14, 2015: Despite a widespread crackdown on human rights defenders, legal professionals, and human rights advocates just days before, Zhang Kai announced the formation of the “Lawyers for Protection of the Cross.” The group, led by Zhang, pledged to “fight peacefully, orderly, and legally against the forced removal of crosses throughout China.”
Aug. 25, 2015: Wenzhou police climbed the walls of Xialing Church where they detained Zhang Kai and his two assistants, Liu Peng, and Fang Xianrui while the three worked to defend the church. Zhang Kai was scheduled to meet with the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, David Saperstein, in Shanghai in a few days’ time.
Sept. 2, 2015: After being denied meetings with his client, Li Guizheng, a lawyer representing Zhang Kai, received at notice from Wenzhou authorities titled, “Prohibition from Meeting with Suspected Criminals,” which indicated that lawyers were not allowed to meet with Zhang Kai due to his status as a possible enemy of the state.Aug. 31, 2015: It was announced that Zhang Kai would spend six months in “residential surveillance in a designated location,” otherwise known as a “black jail.”
Sept. 3, 2015: Zhang Kai’s family received a notice from the Wenzhou police, stating that Zhang Kai is suspected of “gathering a mob to disturb public order” and “stealing, collecting, purchasing and illegally providing state secrets and intelligence to overseas organizations.”
Nov. 11, 2015: Wenzhou authorities issued a demolition notice to Xialing Church, informing the church of its impending demolition, scheduled for November 16.
Nov. 13, 2015: The Wenzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau released a notice, informing Zhang Lei, one of the lawyers representing Zhang Kai, that the imprisoned rights defender had “temporarily” dismissed Zhang Lei. Lawyer Li Baiguang received the same notice in reference to his client, Zhang Kai’s assistant Liu Peng.
Dec. 11, 2015: Zhang Kai’s assistants, Liu Peng and Fang Xianrui, are released after spending four months in a “black jail.”
Dec. 28, 2015: Wenzhou authorities removed Xialing Church’s cross.
Jan. 27, 2016:, Zhang Chenshou, another lawyer commissioned by Zhang Kai’s family, received a letter from his client, informing him that Zhang Kai was dismissing him because Zhang Kai was “now cooperating in the investigation” and didn’t “need a lawyer for now.” Many suspect that Zhang Kai was pressured to write the letter.
Feb. 25, 2016: On the six month anniversary of his detention, a video of Zhang Kai “confessing” to his alleged crimes was published by a Zhejiang television station. It is believed that Zhang Kai was forced to confess.
Feb. 26, 2016: Authorities criminally detained Zhang Kai for “endangering state secrets” and “gathering a crowd to disturb public order” the day after a “confession” aired on state-run television. Typically, detainees are released following televised confessions.