China airs ‘confession’ of Swedish rights activist

Peter Dahlin is accused of running a human rights group without permission and endangering national security.

Peter Dahlin
China Action maintains that Dahlin was working within China's 'existing legal framework' [MIchael Caster]

Chinese state television has aired a confession of a detained Swedish human rights activist accused of operating an unlicensed rights group in China.

The organisation that Peter Dahlin worked for, China Urgent Action Working Group (China Action), described the TV appearance on Wednesday as an “apparent forced confession”.

Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, said that Dahlin worked for an illegal organisation that sponsored activities that jeopardised China’s national security.

“I have caused harm to the Chinese government. I have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. I apologise sincerely for this. And I’m very sorry that this ever happened,” he said in an interview that aired on CCTV.

China Action said the confession was “forced in order to incriminate” Dahlin.

“Whatever Peter did or did not say cannot be fully verified as long as he is being held in residential surveillance, a form of detention the UN Committee Against Torture has criticised,” the group said in a statement.

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The EU has expressed concern at China’s arrest of the Swedish national. 

Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, the EU’s ambassador to China, said the bloc wanted “transparency and access” to the country after Dahlin was detained early in January.

The Swede was the cofounder of China Action, established in 2009 and according to its website, “a team of human rights defenders working in mainland China composed of Chinese academics, lawyers, and political professionals”.

The group said Dahlin was working within China’s “existing legal framework”.

Chinese police officials said China Action hired people to “fabricate and distort” information about the country to “overseas organisations”.

“It also organised others to interfere with sensitive cases, deliberately aggravating disputes and instigating public-government confrontations to create mass incidents, according to the police,” the Xinhua report said.

“The police said the organisation had been accepting hugh sums of money from seven overseas organisations and the above activities were carried out in accordance with their plans.”

China Action denied the allegations in its statement, saying that “to purport that Peter was ‘planted’ in China by foreign forces is part of a trend by Chinese authorities of blaming ‘hostile foreign forces’ for domestic grievances”.

In November 2015, Amnesty International criticised China for extracting confessions from suspects using torture or coercion.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies