A Chinese Christian lawyer who was imprisoned for 7 months for opposing a Communist Party campaign to remove crosses from churches has shared how he was sustained in part by the prayers and encouragement of a woman similarly persecuted for her faith.
In a letter, Zhang Kai, who was released in March, shared how Wang Qiaoling, the spouse of award-winning human rights defender Li Heping, continuously showed support to both him and her husband while the government persecuted them for representing groups targeted by the government.
"Human rights lawyer is among the most dangerous professions in China," he wrote in the letter translated by Chin Aid. "In the past ten years, both Li Heping and I were beaten by the police, hunted down, threatened by hooligans, imprisoned illegally, summoned by the government, monitored and detained, etc. Even our family members were investigated. We would have died much earlier without the protection of God."
He continued: "Wang Qiaoling kept comforting, supporting, and encouraging my parents after I was imprisoned...She witnesses about Jesus Christ with righteousness, sympathy, and a modest heart," despite her current circumstances.
As earlier reported, 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.
Zhang 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.
In February, Zhang reappeared on state television, and confessed to his "crimes", apparently under coercion. He admitted to encouraging Christians to come together to "protect their rights" after the authorities removed crosses from churches. However, in September, he once again roused the ire of Communist authorities after publicly renouncing such statements.
In turn, Li was detained along with about 300 other human rights activists and lawyers as part of a massive government crackdown from last July to September. Since his imprisonment, authorities had refused to provide his family with any information, according to the South China Morning Post.
After Li was imprisoned, his wife dedicated her life to advocating for him while also ecouraging the family members of other prisoners.
Zhang recalled: "She said: 'I can compromise on anything but my husband. He just can't be stolen away from me. I don't care if it's the government or another woman.' In an age of carnal desires, Wang Qiaoling demonstrates the pure love between Christians."
Communist China officially guarantees freedom of religion though authorities are sometimes suspicious of religious groups. Experts believe there are a staggering 60 million Protestants in China, divided between official and unregistered churches.