Sat, Jan 26, 2019 - Page 9 News List

Activist ‘confessions’ spark fear at Chinese university

The screenings are part of an effort to stem a surge of activism on China’s campuses by threatening those calling for the release of dozens who have been detained since August last year

By Christian Shepherd  /  Reuters, BEIJING

“There has been no news of these classmates since they went missing in August. No one, whether family or lawyers, has been allowed to see them. Where they are being held, what they have suffered, we do not have a clue,” one of the friends said.

The reference in the videos to an “illegal organization” that orchestrated the protests was an attempt to “invert black and white,” given it was the workers’ protests that drew activist support, not the other way around, the same source said.

“The left-wing students and the support group’s actions are guided by Marxism, are answering Chairman Xi Jinping’s (習近平) call and are in line with socialist ideas,” another said, referring to Xi’s calls for China to stick with Marxist theories.

Since 2012, when Chinese President Xi Jinping took office, law enforcement authorities in China have made increasing use of “confessions,” often delivered via state media, during politically charged cases, sometimes involving foreign citizens.

Gu and Zheng are being held in a form of detention known as “residential surveillance at a designated location,” or RSDL, according to notices sent to their families and seen by students.

The controversial measure allows police to interrogate suspects for six months without legal representation and is meant to be reserved for severe crimes such as “endangering national security,” “terrorism” or serious bribery crimes.

Rights groups say that the lack of oversight gives police carte blanche in their interrogations, allowing torture and forced confessions, including those that can then be publicly released.

China aired nearly 50 such confessions between 2013 and last year, said RSDL Monitor, a group run by Madrid-based rights activist Peter Dahlin, who featured in one such video himself, aired by China’s state broadcaster in 2016.

People who are asked to make confession videos tend to have been detained for some time, and have often been physically or mentally tortured, Dahlin said.

Under RSDL, he was held in solitary confinement, denied sleep and interrogated for about six hours per day, Dahlin said in a book he wrote about China’s use of “confessions.”

After three weeks, he provided a scripted “interview” to state broadcaster journalists to try and speed up his release and that of his Chinese girlfriend, he wrote.

“These ‘confession’ videos not only serve a more generic propaganda purpose, they tend to be aimed as tools of political terror, using one or a few people to create fear in their larger communities,” Dahlin said in an interview.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in 2016 that Dahlin had pleaded guilty to crimes of endangering national security and was expelled from China in accordance with Chinese law.

Chinese state media has defended RSDL as being necessary to ensure that legal procedures “proceed smoothly” in complicated or sensitive cases.

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