China: Detained Swedish rights activist makes TV 'confession'

Story highlights

  • Detained Swedish human rights advocate appears on state TV
  • His organization says that the confession was "forced"
  • Comes after similar confession by missing Hong Kong bookseller

(CNN)A Swedish human rights advocate detained in China has appeared on state television admitting to violating Chinese laws, which his organization described as an "apparent forced confession."

Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, said that Peter Jesper Dahlin worked for an illegal organization that sponsored activities that jeopardized China's national security.
    "I have caused harm to the Chinese government. I have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. I apologize sincerely for this. And I'm very sorry that this ever happened," he said in an interview that aired on state broadcaster CCTV Tuesday evening.
    Dahlin worked for the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group, which "undertakes rapid response assistance for rights defenders in need" and provides legal aid and training across China, according to its website.
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    China Action said Tuesday the accusations against Dahlin remain "baseless."
    "Accusations of criminal activity involving rights lawyers only show that the authorities consider the promotion of human rights through public interest litigation to be a criminal activity," it said in a statement.
    Xinhua said Chinese authorities had "smashed" the group, which the news agency said had received large sums of undeclared money from overseas and "trained others to gather, fabricate and distort information" about China in reports to overseas organizations.
    In the interview, Dahlin said he had worked with women's rights activist Su Changlan, Chengdu-based activist Xing Qingxian and lawyer Wang Quanzhang, all of whom are currently under detention in China.
    "We have become aware that certain people that we have supported at one time or another have gone on to do ...clear violation of the law," Dahlin said.
    A spokesperson for Sweden's Embassy in Beijing said it was aware of the report and had no comment at the moment.

    Trial by CCTV?

    Dahlin's confession on state broadcaster CCTV follows a similar appearance Sunday by Gui Minhai, a Hong Kong publisher who went missing in Thailand in October.
    Gui said he turned himself in over a 2003 hit and run incident but supporters in Hong Kong say they suspect he was abducted by Chinese security forces because he publishes books critical of China's ruling elite.
    Critics have warned of trial by media and said it was important to examine whether the confessions were obtained under duress.