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Zhang Kai
World News

MP tables urgent question over treatment of lawyer who defended Chinese Christians

Zhang Kai has been told he faces a severe prison sentence or death after representing a number churches who protested over the demolition of their buildings in Zhejiang Province.

As the Chinese President is currently in the UK on a state visit, Fiona Bruce, who is also chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission asked Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire "'if he will make a statement on human rights in China, following reports that human rights lawyer Zhang Kai imminently faces a severe prison sentence or the death penalty, for defending civil liberties."

In his response, Mr Swire said: "As we have made very clear, the strong relationship that we are building allows us to discuss all issues. No issue, including human rights, is off the table. The UK-China joint statement that we have agreed commits both sides to continuing our dialogue on human rights and the rule of law.

"Turning to the case of Zhang Kai, we are aware that he has been accused of "endangering state security" and "assembling a crowd" to "disrupt social order", apparently in relation to his work with Churches in Zhejiang province. We are concerned that his whereabouts are undisclosed, and that he has reportedly been denied access to legal representation.

"At the UK-China human rights dialogue, which was held in Beijing in April this year, we raised issues relating to religious freedom in China, including the destruction of churches and religious symbols in Zhejiang province. We raised a number of related individual cases. A transparent legal system is a vital component of the rule of law, and we urge the Chinese authorities to ensure that proper judicial standards are upheld."

Her question was part of a series tabled about the human rights situation in China.

Welcoming the intervention, Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of the charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide said: "We warmly welcome Fiona Bruce MP's initiative in tabling this Urgent Question and securing this important debate, which has highlighted the situation of human rights in China and the plight of Chinese citizens who have had their rights infringed, often for standing up for those of their fellow citizens.

"We urge the Prime Minister to extend the UK's support to Chinese citizens working to uphold rule of law in their country, and to raise these issues with President Xi during his visit, affirming that human rights and trade are not mutually exclusive."

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