Chinese Christian lawyer Zhang Kai has appeared on Chinese state television and delivered an alleged confession about his alleged role in disrupting social order in China, but his parading on state TV for an alleged admission of guilt following months of being missing has stirred anger among his supporters.
Zhang Kai has been missing for months, but suddenly appeared on Wenzhou TV on Thursday night to make an "admission" that he was the one who incited the Christians in Wenzhou to fight for their rights. The Christian lawyer is the legal counsel of a group of Christians arrested after protesting when authorities demolished crosses from their churches, according to the South China Morning Post.
"I really regret doing these things, I feel very remorseful," said Zhang. "These things violated China's law and violated my personal integrity as a lawyer, and they harmed societal structure and national security."
State-run news website Wenzhou Online says Zhang had warned other human rights lawyers not to engage in activities with foreigners or foreign organizations that might go against China's laws. The website also reports that Zhang was identified as the person behind "illegal religious gatherings."
Zhang has been accused of several crimes including inciting people against the government, cheating people out of money, and "accepting foreign training."
The Christian lawyer's supporters are now demanding Zhang's release after he was paraded on television for his alleged confession. Activist think his arrest was part of the government's effort to stop Zhang from speaking out against China's cross removal campaign, The Guardian reports.
In October 2015, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Zhang was supposed to meet U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom David Saperstein in China in August. The Chinese lawyer was arrested before the meeting could take place.
Wenzhou was the center of protests in 2014 after the Chinese government launched a campaign to destroy crosses on churches.
Authorities in Wenzhou said they took down the crosses because they were against the regulations on buildings and structures. However, rights groups say the campaign was part of the government's efforts to dampen religious freedom and Christianity. These groups also say the televised confessions of suspects accused in such cases are a violation of their right to due process.