Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 August 2019

Detained China human rights lawyer ‘confesses’

State news agencies have said the lawyer, who defended families whose children were poisoned by tainted milk, 'admitted guilt' and pleaded for a 'second chance'.

BEIJING // A prominent Chinese human rights lawyer has “confessed guilt” a week after being detained in a major crackdown on legal activists, state media said.

Zhou Shifeng is one of more than 130 lawyers detained or called in for questioning by state security bodies this month, according to rights groups.

The lawyer provided legal aid to families of children poisoned by milk powder from a powerful dairy firm, and this year defended an 81-year-old writer detained for criticising the ruling Communist party.

Mr Zhou has reportedly not been able to meet a family-appointed defence lawyer.

The official Xinhua news agency said on Saturday that he “admitted guilt” and pleaded for a “second chance”.

“Some things about my actions at the law firm were illegal ... my mistakes were serious,” the report cited Mr Zhou as saying, apparently while in police custody.

Xinhua said nine other lawyers connected to Mr Zhou’s law firm Fengrui had been detained. The detained lawyers “gave interviews to foreign media, spreading opinions attacking the party and the government, slandering the legal system and other such negative views”, it added.

State broadcaster CCTV on Sunday showed “confessions” from Mr Zhou and several colleagues in a report lasting nearly 40 minutes.

Other “violations” highlighted by CCTV included lawyers organising protesters to demonstrate outside courthouses, and raising money online to fight cases.

China’s courts have a nearly 100 per cent conviction rate. State media said last year that the use of torture by police to extract confessions was “not rare”.

The ruling party says it hopes to promote the rule of law, and a growing number of lawyers over the past decade have attempted to expose official abuses using the courts.

But president Xi Jinping has stressed the party’s ultimate authority over the legal system, and limits on activism have tightened, with dozens jailed.

* Agence France-Presse

Updated: July 19, 2015 04:00 AM

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