Political adviser calls for end to TV confessions in China

Bookseller Gui Minhai, a Swedish national, weeping during an interview on Jan 17 on Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.
Bookseller Gui Minhai, a Swedish national, weeping during an interview on Jan 17 on Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING • A member of China's political advisory body has urged the Chinese authorities to bring an end to televised confessions.

Mr Zhu Zhengfu, deputy chairman of the All-China Lawyers Association, spoke to Chinese media ahead of the country's annual parliamentary sessions, which kick off today with the opening of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Mr Zhu is a CPPCC member.

"A confession made on television does not equate to a legitimate confession or carry any indication he or she is guilty," Mr Zhu was quoted as saying by South China Morning Post.

"If the confession was staged, it does not help protect the rights of the suspect or the justice system."

In an interview with Caixin magazine, he said suspects are very likely to have been coerced into making confessions and under pressure from law enforcers.

China has been criticised for parading suspects on state television, with critics claiming that such confessions appear "forced".

Earlier this week, five Hong Kong booksellers who went missing since last October appeared on Hong Kong-based Pheonix TV to explain their disappearance. Four of them confessed to smuggling critical political works into the mainland.

The fifth bookseller, British citizen Lee Bo, said he had not been kidnapped by the Chinese authorities, as many suspect, but had sneaked into China illegally to assist with an investigation.

Hong Kong police chief Stephen Lo said on Tuesday he suspected Lee was hiding something.

"We will wait for him to come back to Hong Kong. Once he is here in Hong Kong, when we have the right to carry out law enforcement duties, we will meet him again," Mr Lo was quoted as saying by the Post.

Last week, a well-known Chinese rights lawyer appeared on state television confessing to crimes after a months-long disappearance, the latest case in China's widening crackdown on dissent.

Zhang Kai had represented a group of Christians who were detained for suspected financial crimes last year after they resisted the demolition of crosses.

In January, Swedish human rights activist Peter Dahlin was released from detention after he appeared on state media confessing to breaking the law through his organisation's support of local Chinese rights lawyers.

He is the founder of Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action), which describes itself as a legal aid organisation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2016, with the headline 'Political adviser calls for end to TV confessions'. Print Edition | Subscribe