Advocates Asia, a forum of Christian lawyers in 20 Asian countries, has urged the Chinese government to “immediately and unconditionally” release human rights lawyers and activists detained since early July.
The participants of the 14th convention of Advocates Asia, held in New Delhi from October 22-24, expressed, “deep concern over [the] arrests, detention and disappearance of human rights lawyers and activists in China, who have been defending individuals and their rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression.”
They reiterated that the, “religious beliefs of all persons must be respected … Coercion, harassment and persecution of the [detained] lawyers and activists is … unjust and harsh.”
A summary of the statement of London-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) on the arrests of the lawyers was read to the 120 delegates attending the conference. In the July 13 statement, CSW quoted the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, saying, “114 individuals have been targeted in sweeping arrests. Those detained include human rights lawyers and activists [and] also relatives of lawyers and staff from lawyer firms.”
Many of those recently detained, the statement pointed out, were, “signatories to a letter condemning the forced disappearance of lawyer Wang Yu, who had defended members of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice banned in China.”
“Among the lawyers arrested were many who have defended the right to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression, including Li Heping, a Christian lawyer who had defended Christians, Falun Gong practitioners and other lawyers,” CSW said. They also highlighted the case of lawyer Zhang Kai, defense attorney for Protestant pastor Huang Yizi, who protested the demolition of churches and crosses in China’s Zhejiang province.
Though the number of detainees had risen to 226 by July 20, CSW pointed out in a subsequent statement, that, “while the majority has been released, at least six are being held incommunicado and at least 14 are in some form of detention or confinement.”
This followed international protests led by UN human rights experts, the European Union, UK, US and other international groups.
“We are meeting in a free atmosphere, but the Christian lawyers of China do not even have the liberty to meet,” said Min-Choon Lee, a Malaysian lawyer and president of Advocates Asia. Lee told the conference that he too had been arrested previously during Malaysian Christians’ fight for the right to use the word “Allah” in early 2014.
“Ours is not a profession, but a vocation,” said Michael F. Saldanha, a Catholic and retired judge of the Mumbai high court, in his keynote address on the theme, ‘Advocates as Catalysts for Change.’
“A lot of social injustices can be stopped if lawyers give up their indifferent attitude to human rights violations. Most atrocities take place because of the total failure of the legal system,” he said.
“The expansion of Islamic fundamentalist groups is posing a great threat to religious freedom in Central Asian countries,” said Ekaterina Smyslova, a lawyer from Russia. “Even the right of Muslims to live according to the Quran is being threatened.”
Source: World Watch Monitor
Father, we praise You for the growth of Your church in China, and for the work of these human rights lawyers on behalf of religious freedom in China. We thank You for Advocates Asia and other legal organizations in Asia that have called for the release of their colleagues in China. We too pray for their release. We pray for all Christians in China and other Asian nations that they may share Your gospel freely, and that they might disciple and encourage one another with Your Word. We thank You for the work of Your Holy Spirit, always taking the testimony of Your people and the Word preached to breathe life into the souls of those living in darkness, just as Your Spirit breathed life into the dry bones when Ezekiel preached. May Your Name be lifted high across the vast land of China. In the Name of Jesus, who dwelt among us that we might have life, Amen.