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China broadcasts confession of Chinese-American blogger

Published September 16, 2013 8:21 am

Internet • Growing trend forces suspects to confess publicly.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Beijing • Chinese state television on Sunday broadcast a startling video of a famous blogger in handcuffs, renouncing his Web posts and saying how dangerous the Internet would be if left uncontrolled by the government.

The 10-minute news segment featuring Charles Xue — a Chinese-American businessman and one of China's most popular bloggers — was the latest step in what appears to be a campaign to intimidate online opinion leaders against speaking critically of the government.

"It gratified my vanity greatly," Xue said of the Internet's freedoms. "I got used to my influence online and the power of my personal opinions ... and I forgot who I am."

The unusual segment also marked a growing trend for Chinese authorities to broadcast interviews after big-name arrests, forcing suspects to confess publicly to alleged crimes prior to trial or conviction. Several businessmen in recent weeks have had their taped confessions aired nationally shortly after their arrest.

Some legal critics have likened it to a return to a Mao-era style of justice, when guilt was never in doubt, self-confessions routine, and the real goal was simply to make examples of the accused as publicly as possible.

Few online could make for a better example than Xue, a venture capitalist whose liberal posts had won him 12 million followers on the microblogging website called weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. Xue was arrested three weeks ago on charges of hiring a prostitute, but his jailing came amid arrests of several other online activists. His case prompted so much doubt online that Beijing police issued denials that he was set up .

"At first, I was careful and I didn't write many posts," Xue said. "But later, I posted more than 80 every day. . . .In the beginning, I verified every post. But later on, I no longer did that. All of a sudden you draw so much attention," he later said. "How do you describe the feeling? Gorgeous."