News / Asia

Activists Denounce China State TV 'Interview' with Detained Journalist

Chen Yongzhou on Chinese state television.
Chen Yongzhou on Chinese state television.
Chinese legal rights activists are denouncing authorities for putting a detained journalist on state television to confess to making false accusations about a state-owned company.

The legal activists said Saturday's CCTV broadcast of the confession by Chen Yongzhou violated his right to due process, because he has yet to face any charges and remains under investigation.

Police from the south-central city of Changsha detained Chen in the southern city of Guangzhou on October 19, on suspicion of damaging the reputation of Changsha-based engineering company Zoomlion.

Chen wrote a series of articles about Zoomlion for Guangzhou-based newspaper New Express, alleging that the machinery maker inflated its profits. The CCTV footage showed him in detention in a Changsha prison, where he told an interviewer that he falsified the Zoomlion accusations in return for money and fame.

Trial by TV?

Beijing-based rights lawyer Li Zhuang expressed outrage at the state television broadcast. Speaking to VOA by phone, he said it reminds him of how he faced accusations of falsifying evidence when he defended a mobster targeted by authorities in the southwestern city of Chongqing.

"Chinese state security laws expressly stipulate that during the investigative stage of a crime, all pieces of evidence are state secrets. How is it possible for public media to expose them?" asked Li.

"This is the same as when Chongqing authorities arrested me. They investigated many pertinent witnesses ... and forced them to acknowledge my guilt. After I had been detained for just three or four days, [the witness testimonies] all were published on CCTV, convicting me in the court of public opinion. This kind of practice is extremely wrong and also illegal."

Li was jailed in 2010 and released the following year.

Another Chinese rights lawyer, Si Weijiang, compared Chen's televised confession to pre-trial judgment. In an interview with Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, Si asked "who gave CCTV the right to violate ... legal procedures?"

Chen's treatment questioned

Some Chinese Internet users expressed concern about marks that appeared on Chen's neck as he appeared on CCTV, and they speculated that he may have been pressured to confess through physical abuse. Others commented about how his hands appeared to make nervous gestures during the interview.

A spokesman for Paris-based rights group Reporters Without Borders said in a VOA interview that the broadcast "raises many questions" about the conduct of Chinese police. Benjamin Ismail said the group is trying to determine the facts.

"It would not be the first time the authorities are mistreating a journalist or blogger that they arrest," said Ismail. "There are many reports in which the authorities have beaten, and even in some cases for the most active or prominent cyber dissidents, tortured their prisoners. So it is something that we have to consider and to investigate to be sure that he wasn't the victim of beating and mistreatment by the authorities."

China's media regulator, the General Association of Press and Publishing (GAPP), said last week it "firmly supports the media conducting normal reporting activities ... and firmly protects the legal rights of journalists."

Media ethics under scrutiny

New Express published an apology about the Zoomlion case on Sunday, saying it failed to properly verify Chen's stories, and accusing him of violating journalistic ethics. It was an abrupt turnaround for the newspaper, which had defended Chen days earlier with two front-page appeals for his release.

The South China Morning Post quoted two unnamed New Express reporters as saying the government forced the Guangzhou newspaper to print the apology.

Whether the apology was forced or not, newspapers in Hong Kong and Taiwan said Chen's alleged misconduct has drawn attention to a wider ethics problem in the Chinese media. They said some journalists accept money from the subjects of their stories, either as a favor or through blackmail.

Reporters Without Borders' Ismail said corruption within the Chinese press is an issue that should be addressed. But he said the Chinese government first should address more serious threats to press freedom, such as harassment of journalists and censorship.

Ismail also said China should be willing to learn from best practices in other nations.

"When nongovernmental organizations like ours, who provide training including media ethics, are banned from entering the country and from providing the training to the journalists, how can you expect the development of a favorable environment for the press in China?" he said.

Dahai Han of VOA's Mandarin Service contributed to this report from Hong Kong. Michael Bond contributed from Washington.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Report: US to Sail Warships Near Disputed S. China Sea Islands

Move will signal nonrecognition of Chinese territorial claims over area, Financial Times reports, citing senior US official More

Study Describes Ancient Deltas, Lakes on Mars

Research builds on recent NASA announcement that water flows on red planet today More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs