from December 2013
Lawyers in China are currently partaking in a hunger strike to
protest being blocked by the government's Communist officials
from visiting a Christian pastor who is currently being detained
by authorities. The lawyers argue that the police are violating
state law by preventing them from accessing their clients.
Fifteen lawyers started their hunger fast Thursday to protest the
pastor's detainment and have said that they will not stop the
strike until they are able to see their client. The lawyers traveled
to Nanle county in Henan to visit detained pastor Zhang Shaojie,
the leader of a government-approved Christian church who was
recently detained along with other church leaders under vague
charges of obstructing government business. Two of Zhang's
lawyers, Xia Jun and Liu Weiguo, told the Associated Press that
they believe their client was arrested for resisting the attempts of
the state to seize his church property.
"We strongly believe that this is a clear case of persecution of a
religious group," Liu said in a phone interview with AP.
Since Zhang's arrest in mid-November, the pastor's family
members and friends have gathered at the local police station in
Nanle in protest of both Zhang and two dozen other members of
Zhang's church who were also detained last month. ChinaAid, a
Texas-based religious rights group, reports that police
authorities clashed with the protesters, striking some and
"causing Pastor Zhang's [elderly] parents [to be hospitalized] for
high blood pressure." Additionally, Zhang's two sisters, also
present at the protest, were taken into custody.
Zhang's arrest comes shortly after China announced it would be
ending its controversial re-education through labor program that
enables government officials to detain petty criminals and those
who contradict that state's political or religious values for up to
four years. The decision by China to abolish the labor camp
practice was heralded by human rights groups across the world
as a major step for the Asian country's human rights record.
However, media outlets point out that Zhang's recent detainment
is particularly concerning because he is the leader of a state-
approved church, and therefore his religious rights and church
property should have been respected by local police.
Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of the Christian rights group
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, demanded in a statement that
Zhang's lawyers be able to visit him during his detainment.
"We urge the local officials in Nanle County to allow the lawyers
representing Pastor Zhang and the other church members to
meet with their clients in accordance with the law. We call on all
the authorities involved to make clear any charges brought
against the detainees, and to ensure that they have access to
legal representation and meetings with their family members."
NOTE: this news is from december last year but used as a follow up sequel to updates for Pastor Zhang's arrest.