Newspaper article International New York Times

China Frees Lawyer after Confession on Videotape

Newspaper article International New York Times

China Frees Lawyer after Confession on Videotape

Article excerpt

Colleagues suggested that coercion, not guilt, had motivated a confession given by a human rights lawyer who was detained during a crackdown on dissent.

A prominent lawyer jailed as part of a crackdown on human rights lawyers in China has been released from detention, according to news reports, even as her colleagues suggested that a videotaped confession she had offered had probably been coerced.

The lawyer, Wang Yu, was detained last year as part of a campaign by President Xi Jinping to weaken a burgeoning human rights movement, which the Communist Party views as a threat to its grip on power.

In a televised confession on Monday, Ms. Wang, a leading figure in the movement, delivered a scathing rebuke of her profession, accusing colleagues of pursuing wealth and fame and suggesting that foreign activists were conspiring to smear the Chinese government. "I won't be used by them anymore," she said in a video posted by The Paper, a news site controlled by the Communist Party.

The video mimicked the style of several recent confessions broadcast by the state news media, in which activists, publishers and lawyers offer admissions of guilt that seem to be aimed at discouraging dissent. Critics of the government have questioned the authenticity of the confessions as propaganda tools that were probably obtained by force.

In a sign that Mr. Xi's crackdown on lawyers is not waning, the authorities moved forward on Monday with trials for several of Ms. Wang's colleagues, including Zhou Shifeng, the director of a law firm at the center of the government's campaign, accusing them of subverting state power.

On Tuesday, one of those on trial, Zhai Yanmin, was given a suspended three-year prison sentence. The court said Mr. Zhai would also be deprived of his political rights for four years, and he is expected to face strict surveillance and restrictions on his activities.

Calls on Monday to a court in Tianjin, a city not far from Beijing where the lawyers were being held, were not answered.

Foreign diplomats and activists harshly criticized Beijing's decision to prosecute Mr. Zhou and his colleagues and demanded that the detained lawyers be allowed to consult with lawyers. …

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