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In this July 29, 2015 photo, a church member shovels cement mix while preparing to replace the Taitou Village Protestant church building's cross, at left, which was forcibly pulled down by Chinese government workers two days earlier in Taitou Village in Pingyang County in eastern China's Zhejiang Province.

Mark Schiefelbein/The Associated Press

A well-known Chinese Christian lawyer had been out of contact for almost two days after being taken away by government workers in an eastern province where local authorities are under a deadline to remove the Christian symbol, the cross, from church roofs, his colleague said Thursday.

The Beijing law firm had received no word on Zhang Kai, and neither had his family, said Yang Xingquan.

Zhang has been providing legal counsel for churches in Zhejiang province in their resistance to the government order, which has been criticized as unconstitutional and infringing upon the right of religious freedom.

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Zhang and his assistant were in a church in the city of Wenzhou on Tuesday night when they were taken away by government workers, Yang said.

Wenzhou, a coastal city in Zhejiang, is known for its entrepreneurship as well as its many Protestant and Catholic churches.

Calls to Wenzhou police were hung up upon the mention of the lawyer.

Local Christians said at least 11 pastors and church members had been taken away by police this week, most likely to deter resistance by churches against the cross removal.

Zhejiang authorities began to remove crosses last year, citing violation of building codes. A rule set earlier this year mandates that all crosses be wholly affixed to building facades, which state media say is for safety concerns.

Critics say the government is trying to reduce the visibility of Christianity, which has been growing rapidly in China and may even rival the ruling Communist Party in size.

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