Posts Tagged ‘removal of crosses from churches’
The Associated Press
In addition, the US also urged China and other nations to release female political prisoners.
The calls come before this month’s visit by President Xi Jinping to the US, the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly and the 20th anniversary of a 1995 global conference on women that was hosted by Beijing.
David Saperstein, the US ambassador at-large for religious freedom, said the August 25 detentions of lawyer Zhang Kai and the others were a “particularly alarming development” as it came while he was in China preparing to meet the group the next day.
He said other religious figures whom he had met had also been detained or harassed.
Saperstein called the actions “outrageous”, particularly as Chinese authorities had encouraged his visit from August 20 to 28 to take stock of religious freedom in the country.
“In that context, there can be no excuse for the detention of these religious figures who either met with me or tried to meet with me,” Saperstein said.
He urged authorities to release about 10 detainees, including Zhang, his assistant and several pastors that had been accused of threatening public order and national security.
Shortly before Saperstein’s comments, Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, started a month-long campaign for the release of 20 women prisoners of conscience.
Three of those women are imprisoned in China, including the first to be featured, prominent lawyer Wang Yu, who was detained in July along with her husband and has yet to be charged with a crime.
Power said human rights would be “a key core issue when President Xi visits Washington” ahead of the UN meeting.
Zhang has been advising churches in China’s Zhejiang province that are resisting orders to remove crosses from church roofs, which has been criticised as unconstitutional and infringing upon the right of religious freedom.
He and his assistant were in a church in the Zhejiang coastal city of Wenzhou last Tuesday night when they were taken away by government workers, associates said.
Wenzhou is known for its entrepreneurship as well as its many Protestant and Catholic churches.
Local Christians said at least 11 pastors and church members were taken away by police last week, most likely to deter resistance by churches against the cross removal.
Zhejiang authorities began to remove crosses last year, citing violation of building codes. A rule set earlier this year mandates that all crosses be wholly affixed to building facades, which state media have said is for safety concerns.
Critics claim the government is trying to reduce the visibility of Christianity, which has been growing rapidly in China and may even rival the ruling Communist Party in size.