Swedish activist for human rights in China “confesses" on television after his arrest

Peter Dahlin was arrested early in the new year. In his “confession” on state television he said he was involved in "instigat[ing] confrontations" and gathering information to produce "distorted" reports. He founded an NGO that helps human rights lawyers and provides legal aid to rural areas. In China, the situation of the rule of law is more and more critical, even for non-Chinese.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The Swedish human rights activist arrested on 4 January in mainland China has appeared on Chinese state television “confessing” to breaking the law through his group's activities.

Peter Dahlin disappeared at the start of the new year amid a crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists. State media claim that his organisation received foreign funding to " instigate confrontations" and gather information to produce "distorted" reports.

The group in question, the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action), offers direct legal aid to people alleging human rights violations, and assistance to uncertified lawyers to provide legal aid in rural areas

In a statement issued after the "confession", the organisation called the report "absurd" and said the confession appeared to be forced.

Mr Dahlin's arrest happened around the same time as a crackdown on several lawyers with the Beijing law firm Fengrui, later charged with subversion.

The Xinhua news agency published a report claiming that the Swede had collaborated with detained lawyer Wang Quanzhang to set up an organisation like his own in Hong Kong. It also accused him of providing funding to activist Xing Qingxian, who reportedly helped the son of detained lawyer Wang Yu to leave the country.

During his “confession,” Mr Dahlin said he supported the lawyers and gave them money. "I violated Chinese law through my activities here; I've caused harm to the Chinese government; I've hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. I apologise sincerely for this and I'm very sorry that this ever happened," he said.

Another Swedish citizen received a similar treatment. Gui Minhai, who is connected to a Hong Kong bookshop known for publishing and carrying books critical of the Chinese government, also appeared on state television.

The Swedish Embassy in Beijing and the Swedish consulate in the former British colony are still trying to understand why two Swedish citizens were arrested. Consular officials met Mr Dahlin in custody but "there are still many questions unanswered about his detention".

Commenting on this flurry of arrests and disappearances, a Chinese trade union source told AsiaNews that “the rule of law is dead" in China.