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Chinese TV shows Swede's 'forced' confession

January 20, 2016

Peter Dahlin of legal rights group Chinese Urgent Action Working Group has confessed to inciting opposition on Chinese state TV. A human-rights law firm has argued that his detention is based on "spurious accusations."

China nimmt schwedischen Menschenrechtsaktivisten fest - Botschaft von Schweden in Peking
Image: Getty Images/AFP/F. Dufour

A Swedish NGO leader who has been detained in China on charges of subverting state security had his confession aired on state television late Tuesday and early Wednesday. His organization, the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group, said the 10-minute segment was "apparently forced."

Peter Dahlin was arrested on January 3 in Beijing airport en route to Thailand, making him the first foreign worker ensnared in President Xi Jinping's crackdown on legal rights groups. Dahlin was charged over Beijing's claims that his organization, which has been forbidden from operating in mainland China, had paid off Chinese attorneys to provide information damaging to the country's image.

"Certain people who we have supported in one time or another have gone on to do acts in clear violation of the law," Dahlin said in the televised confession, expressing his remorse to "the Chinese government and Chinese people."

He added that he had "no complaints to make" about his treatment while in detention.

State news agency Xinhua, quoting witnesses, said Dahlin had been planted in the country by "Western anti-China forces" to fan the flame of opposition to the Communist Party.

Nationwide crackdown on legal advocacy

Xi's administration has targeted advocacy groups for actions Beijing asserts are destabilizing state security. The ensuing suppression of NGOs has garnered hefty criticism from foreign governments and international rights groups.

Dahlin's group, also known as China Action, was founded in cooperation with law firm Fengrui, which saw four of its well-known lawyers arrested last week on similar charges. This was just six months after hundreds of attorneys were rounded up across the country and indicted for promoting hostility to the government and fabricating cases simply to make money.

Fengrui has stated that it "has only ever advocated nonviolent, informed reliance on Chinese law," and that Dahlin and the other lawyers were "arbitrarily detained on spurious accusations."

Dahlin's statement came after that of another Hong Kong-based Swede, the publisher Gui Minhai, who sold books banned in mainland China and disappeared in October.

Rally for 'disappeared' Hong Kong booksellers

The incidents prompted the European Union's ambassador to China, Hans-Dietmar Schweisgut, to voice his "grave concerns" over the detention of EU citizens.

"We do hope it's not representing the new normal yet, but we do see an extremely worrying trend," said Schweisgut.

es/sms (AP, AFP, dpa)