A well-known Christian rights lawyer who tried to help prevent a wave of church cross removals by Chinese authorities has appeared on state television confessing to crimes after a months-long disappearance – the latest case in China’s widening crackdown on Christians.

On a news programme on state-controlled Wenzhou TV on 25 Feb., Zhang Kai confessed to encouraging Christians to come together to “protect their rights” after the authorities removed crosses from churches.

“I really regret doing these things. I feel very remorseful,” Zhang said. “These things violated China’s law and violated my personal integrity as a lawyer.”

The mostly Christian city of Wenzhou, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, was the site of protests in 2014 over a government campaign to demolish crosses.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said: “Such confessions are counter to the standards of a rule-of-law society … We urge China to release Zhang and others detained for seeking to peacefully uphold the freedom of religion guaranteed in China’s constitution.”

Zhang was detained shortly before a planned meeting in August 2015 with David Saperstein, the US ambassador for international religious freedom, who was visiting China.

Sources: Reuters, UCAN