EU should sanction China for ‘confessions’, says press group

Journalist advocacy group RSF says footage of EU nationals is propaganda

Screen grab taken from Chinese state broadcaster CCTV shows Gui Minhai, a Swedish national and co-owner of publisher Mighty Current in Hong Kong, speaking in an interview broadcast on January 17th, 2016. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Screen grab taken from Chinese state broadcaster CCTV shows Gui Minhai, a Swedish national and co-owner of publisher Mighty Current in Hong Kong, speaking in an interview broadcast on January 17th, 2016. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

The advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on the European Union to sanction China’s state-owned broadcaster CCTV and the official Xinhua news agency after they broadcast and published presumed forced “confessions” on Chinese state media by EU nationals.

China Central TV broadcast footage of Peter Dahlin, a Swedish citizen working for the NGO Chinese Urgent Action Working Group, making a “confession”.

The Xinhua news agency ran a story saying Mr Dahlin had been arrested for “encouraging the masses to oppose the government” and that he “confessed these illegal activities and expressed remorse”.

Previously, another Swedish national, Gui Minhai, the owner of Mighty Current, a Hong Kong-based company that publishes salacious books about Communist Party leaders, was shown giving a tearful testimony on CCTV and saying he wanted to be tried in China.

Mr Gui disappeared in Thailand earlier this month, and four of his colleagues at Mighty Current are also believed to have been detained by Chinese officials.

His missing colleague Lee Bo, who did not make a televised appearance, made a public statement that appeared coerced. He said he was helping police with enquiries in southern China and issued a statement condemning his colleague Gui.

“We are outraged by the dissemination of forced ‘confessions’ that have no informational value,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “By knowingly peddling lies and statements which were presumably obtained under duress, CCTV and Xinhua become mass propaganda weapons and cease de facto to be news media.”

The group said that both CCTV and Xinhua were taking on a growing international role and they represented a threat to press freedom.

Both agencies have opened substantial overseas bureaux in recent years.

“We call on the European Union to urgently adopt a resolution sanctioning these practices, which are part of the Chinese government’s repressive system,” said Ismaïl.

RSF said previously that the European Council had previously introduced sanctions against Iranian officials – including Press TV’s CEO and news director – after they were found to have violated the right to a fair trial by their use of forced confessions and were complicit in the use of violence to make detainees “confess.”

RSF also highlighted the use of forced confessions against journalists in China, including the veteran reporter Gao Yu, who disappeared in April 2014 and who was shown on CCTV two weeks later confessing to having made a “big mistake” and admitting her guilt.

She was afterwards accused of disclosing state secrets to sources outside China. During her trial, she said she had made the confession under duress after threats to her son.

China is ranked 176th out of 180 countries in the 2015 RSF press freedom index.