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China detains Christian lawyer amid cross removal campaign

China detains Christian lawyer amid cross removal campaign

A Catholic church in traditional Chinese architecture style in Xiliulin village near the city of Taiyuan, Shanxi province, December 23, 2012. | REUTERS / Jason Lee

A prominent Christian lawyer in China has been detained amid the ongoing cross removal campaign across churches in the country's eastern province.

Zhang Kai, a Christian lawyer in China, had been unreachable for two days after authorities arrested him on Tuesday. On Thursday, his colleague Yang Xingquan said their law firm in Beijing received no update about the detained lawyer, according to an AP report published by AOL.

Authorities in Wenzhou were given a deadline to take down all the crosses from the roofs of Christian churches in the city. Wenzhou is home to many Catholic and Protestant churches and is known as "China's Jerusalem," Radio Free Asia reports.

Zhang has been offering free legal counsel for over 100 Protestant churches in Zhejiang in their fight against the cross removal movement, the report adds.

This week alone, at least 11 church members and ministers have been arrested by police to prevent resistance against the cross removal campaign, local Christians said. Calls to the police department in Wenzhou were hung up at the mention of Zhang.

On Wednesday, the head of the Xingiao law firm released a statement condemning Zhang's arrest. He revealed his plan to travel to Wenzhou to determine the status of Zhang and two other legal assistants who were arrested at the same time, the report relays.

Christians in Wenzhou see the government order as unconstitutional and as an inhibition of their freedom of religion.

The cross removal campaign began last year, and authorities have been carrying out the government order with the explanation that the churches violated the country's building codes. Earlier this year, the Chinese government ordered that crosses should be fully affixed to churches and other establishments to maintain safety, the report details.

However, critics say the cross removal campaign is part of the Chinese government's efforts to inhibit the spread of Christianity. The ruling Communist Party fears that Christianity, which has been growing fast, may increase its influence on the country.

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