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BEIJING — The year-old journalist wore a green jail uniform, his head shaved and hands in metal cuffs, when he appeared on national TV and confessed his guilt in bribery allegations. And he had yet to be charged with anything. He said he took money from a reporter at a metropolitan newspaper in southern China in exchange for running several stories smearing a company that makes heavy machinery. It was the latest of several high-profile, televised confessions, a new tactic by Chinese authorities attempting to scrub information they deem harmful, illegal or false from the public domain, especially from the Internet.
The confessions have come alongside a propaganda campaign warning against relaying false information, and new penalties for reposting untrue information in social media.
This time, police and state media appear to be working together. Police detain the suspect and get a confession. Legal scholars say evidence gathered during the police investigation should remain confidential by law until the probe is closed.
They question on what grounds police have given CCTV access to suspects in detention or video footage of their interrogations. Some have raised the possibility of coerced confessions. In at least one case, the lawyer of a suspect said his client never accepted an interview with CCTV but believed the police edited, compiled and shared the footage from the interrogations with the broadcaster.
CCTV did not respond to faxed questions about the confessions. Police in the four cities where such confessions have been filmed either could not be reached or did not respond to media requests. In one of the first prominent cases, Chinese-American investor Charles Xue was detained by police on suspicion of engaging in prostitution. It has become clear that Xue has been targeted in a government effort to discredit liberal-minded microbloggers who tend to advocate values such as democracy and freedom.