US condemns Zhang Kai 'confession' on Chinese state TV

This photo taken on May 24, 2015 shows worshippers celebrating the Feast of the Ascension at the "underground" Zhongxin Bridge Catholic Church in Tianjin. Tianjin, Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Zhang was aiding Christians opposing government orders to remove crosses from buildings

The US says a purported confession from a prominent Chinese lawyer on state television runs counter to the rule of law.

Zhang Kai admitted to various crimes including disturbing social order in a broadcast on Thursday.

He has been helping defend Christians resisting government orders to remove crosses from buildings.

China says it guarantees religious freedom but there are concerns about a crackdown on Christian activities.

On Friday, a pastor and his wife who had refused to remove a cross from his church roof were jailed for inciting public disorder.

The authorities have justified the tearing down of crosses by saying they break planning rules.

Zhang Kai was arrested last year shortly before a planned meeting with the US envoy on religious freedoms.


In the broadcast, Mr Zhang said he had assisted the Christians because he wanted wealth and fame.

"I really regret doing these things, I feel very remorseful," he said.

"These things violated China's law and violated my personal integrity as a lawyer, and they harmed societal structure and national security."

China frequently airs confessions from high-profile suspects on television.

Condemning the broadcast, a US State Department spokesman said "such confessions are counter to the standards of a rule of law.

"We urge China to release Zhang and others detained for seeking to peacefully uphold the freedom of religion guaranteed in China's constitution."

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