US criticizes China airing 'confession' by detained lawyer

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The U.S. says the airing by Chinese state media of a purported confession by a detained Christian human rights lawyer prior to any judicial process runs counter to the rule of law, and he should be released.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner expressed deep concern Friday over the treatment of the lawyer, Zhang Kai, who was detained in August, a day before he was due to meet a U.S. religious freedom envoy.

A semiofficial news website in the eastern city of Wenzhou said Thursday that Zhang has confessed to breaking the law by disturbing social order, endangering state security and engaging in unprofessional behavior.

Zhang had been providing legal counsel for churches in their resistance to a government order to remove hundreds of crosses from church buildings.