A prominent human rights lawyer has shared how his faith sustained him while he suffered for over five months in one of China's notorious "black jails" - a time he referred to as a "period of horror" - and thanked believers for their prayers.
In honor of Thanksgiving Day, Zhang Kai penned a letter thanking those who helped secure his freedom and shared how his faith continues to comfort him as he once again faces the ire of Communist authorities.
"The history of Thanksgiving is a history of escaping from oppression, seeking freedom and thanking God," he wrote in the letter, translated by China Aid, an organization which supports persecuted Christian and promotes religious freedom in China. "On this special day, even though I often feel desperate and devastated, I deeply know in my heart that God always encourages and supports me with His irresistible love, and my gratitude is always beyond words."
As earlier reported, Zhang was 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. China Aid says Zhang was held "incommunicado in an unofficial 'black jail'".
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.
Shortly thereafter, he received a criminal detention sentence, which was cut short when he was released on bail on March 23. Since then, he has been living with his family in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia.
In continuing his Thanksgiving letter, Zhang went on to thank those who cared for his family during his imprisonment, and thanked the lawyers to "stepped forward for me in my period of horror."
"Thanks to the scholars, lawyers, citizens, [etc.], who are devoted to bringing rule of law, human rights and freedom to China," he wrote. "It is you who fill the ridiculous world with love and warmth."
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.
Over the past year, up to 1,700 churches have been demolished or had their crosses removed in Zhejiang province, and a significant number of pastors and human rights lawyers have been arrested and imprisoned.