After spending two days in police custody, a prominent human rights lawyer in China has resurfaced - much to the relief of his traumatized family.
As reported, two days after Christmas, Christian lawyer Zhang Kai responded to a summons to a police station in Hohhot. His sister, Zhang Yan, told persecution watchdog China Aid that Zhang often receives these summons, since he is currently released on bail after his previous detention. However, this time, authorities kept him for 48 hours, concerning the family when he failed to return home. He was eventually released, and is now back with his parents and northern Inner Mongolia.
Zhang was originally apprehended last August for legally representing about 100 churches affected by an ongoing cross demolition campaign in Zhejiang province. At the time of his arrest, Zhang was advising a church in Wenzhou, a region known as China's "Jerusalem" due to its large Christian population, according to the New York Times.
The Christian lawyer was charged with "gathering a crowd to disturb public order" and "stealing, spying, buying and illegally providing state secrets and intelligence to entities outside of China," prompting police to issue an order to place him under secret detention for up to six months.
His sister told China Aid that since his release, Zhang has been trying to maintain a low profile so as not to cause further trouble for himself and spends most of his time reading and taking care of his fish. She said that his latest detention was mysterious, as none of his actions warrant police summons.
Additionally, she said, "[Officials from the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau] came to [my] work unit and met with [my] manager, saying they wanted to have a conversation with me. In the end, we didn't talk, because I refused. They said they had given [my] work unit's leader identification ... but I didn't see any identification, and I certainly would not cooperate with them videotaping me. I suggested that ‘If you videotape me, I will not talk to you.' They then put away [the video equipment]."
The Communist Party has been cracking down on human rights lawyers in China for a year and a half, according to Amnesty International. Since July 2015, over 260 lawyers and activists caught up in China's crackdown have been questioned by police, detained or charged with subverting state power.
In November, Jiang Tianyong, a respected human rights attorney, disappeared as he prepared to board a train. At the time of his disappearance, he was defending Tibetan protesters, fellow human rights lawyers and Falun Gong practitioners.
Last month, police admitted to Jiang's lawyer that they detained him for nine days, accusing him of using IDs belonging to someone else to buy train tickets. Police said he was then released; however, his whereabouts remain unknown, prompting some to fear he may be languishing in one of China's notorious "black jails."
A panel of United Nations experts earlier this month called on the Chinese government to investigate Jiang's situation: "We fear that Jiang's disappearance may be directly linked to his advocacy and he may be at risk of torture," the UN panel said.
"We cannot rule out the possibility that Jiang may have been disappeared by the state agents because of his human rights work," the experts added. "Over the past years, we have received information that Jiang has been arrested, detained, and beaten by the police and state security officers on multiple occasions as a result of his human rights work."