Lawyer who defended Christians detained in China after retracting 'forced statements' in prison

Human rights lawyer Zhang Kai was detained by authorities after he retracted the statements he was forced to make during his previous incarceration.

Zhang Kai being interviewed by Release International in 2011 | Screencapture/Youtube/Release International

Zhang was initially arrested in August 2015 for giving advice to Christians who protested the removal of crosses on their churches. He was held for six months in an unknown location for "endangering state secrets" and "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order." On Feb. 25, Chinese media showed footage of him admitting to charges.

Zhang received a criminal detention sentence but it was cut short. He was released on bail last March on the condition that he would not speak to the media.

According to Zhang's lawyer, Tan Chenshou, police from Wenzhou City went to Zhang's home in Inner Mongolia to arrest him. Earlier that day, Zhang reportedly retracted the scripted criticisms of human rights lawyers that he was coerced to say while he was in prison.

"I think it's very likely [that he will be prosecuted]. We can't rule it out," Tan told Radio Free Asia (RFA). "He was forbidden to talk to the press; Zhang Kai has been targeted for a lot of persecution," Tan added.

RFA reported that there are increasing cases of detained human rights lawyers who are forced to make such confessions.

In July 2015, 248 human rights lawyers and activists were targeted by Chinese officials. Amnesty International reported that the state-run media referred to these defenders of justice as a "major criminal gang."

Amnesty International noted a pattern where the accused were detained for more than a year and denied their own choice of lawyers. Some were reportedly made to confess on state television prior to their trials.

The global organization called on Chinese authorities to end the suppression of the lawyers and activists.

"This wave of trials against lawyers and activists are a political charade. Their fate was sealed before they stepped into the courtroom and there was no chance that they would ever receive a fair trial," said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.