A detained human rights activist from Sweden has appeared on China’s state-run media, where he confessed to breaking the law and harming the Chinese government.
Authorities have accused Peter Dahlin and the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action) of receiving foreign funding to “instigate confrontations” with the government and produce “distorted reports” on China’s human rights record.
“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 apologize sincerely for this and I’m very sorry that this ever happened,” Dahlin said.
In the 10-minute CCTV segment, Dahlin also explained how he trained unlicensed lawyers to lead cases against the Chinese government, a move that authorities called “a clear violation of the law.”
A report published online by the state-run news agency Xinhua said police had dismantled an “illegal organization jeopardizing China’s national security.”
China Action provides direct legal aid to people in China claiming human rights violations. It also helps unlicensed lawyers provide legal aid in the country’s rural areas.
Authorities also accused the group of organizing people to “aggravate disputes” and “create mass incidents”.
In a statement, China Action denied the allegations against Dahlin and said the confession appeared “forced.”
“It’s absurd to claim Peter was engaged in malicious efforts to attack or discredit China… it is equally absurd to accuse Peter or China Action of manufacturing or escalating conflicts inside of China,” the statement reads.
State media has also linked Dahlin to Fengrui, a law firm with several members who recently were charged with subversion. Dahlin was accused of collaborating with detained lawyer Wang Quanzhang to establish a similar organization in Hong Kong.
Dahlin was detained in January as he was attempting to board a flight at Beijing airport.
His televised confession came just days after missing Hong Kong book publisher Gui Minhai appeared on state TV with tears in his eyes to confess he had turned himself in to mainland authorities on a drunk-driving charge. Gui is linked to a Hong Kong bookshop known for selling titles which are banned on the mainland for their criticism of the ruling Communist Party.
The Associated Press reports that state TV has broadcast the confessions of at least 18 activists, bloggers and journalists since 2013.
China Action said Swedish embassy officials met Dahlin while he was in custody, but “there are still many questions unanswered about his detention”.
Sebastian Magnusson, a Swedish embassy spokesperson, told the AP he had “no comment” on the CCTV segment and that Dahlin was “OK considering the circumstances.”
Dhalin’s colleagues have raised concern for Dhalin’s health because they say he suffers from Addison’s disease, which affects the adrenal gland and requires daily medication.
The Chinese government has been accused of leading a widely-condemned crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists. Since July 2015, more than 280 human rights lawyers and activists have been summoned, detained or disappeared..