BBC says Wu under duress in video confession

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 July, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 July, 1995, 12:00am

CHINA says detained American human rights activist Harry Wu Hongda has confessed to deliberately 'falsifying facts' in television reports on organ sales and the export of prison-made goods aired on the BBC last year.

In the first detailed report by Xinhua (the New China News Agency) since his arrest in Xinjiang last month, it said Wu admitted his reports were 'wrong' and 'untrue.' Also released was a 13-minute video entitled Just See the Lies of Harry Wu, which showed a visibly tired Wu being questioned in a police cell and interviews with doctors and patients who denied allegations in the 1994 documentary made by Wu and journalist Sue Lloyd-Roberts on the selling of prisoners' organs.

But, after examining the video, the BBC said Wu was 'clearly under duress' during a hostile cross-examination.

It said it was concerned for Wu's safety and that while he remained in Chinese custody it would not comment in detail on the allegations in the tape.

The Xinhua report seems designed to justify Wu's arrest after the United States and other Western countries have demanded his release. It also sets out to destroy Wu's reputation by saying he was justly given a 19-year prison sentence in 1960 for 'seducing girl students' and embezzlement.

One of the two documentaries produced by Wu contained shots of the graves of former labour camp inmates and leather garments and children's clothes allegedly made by prison labour for export.

Now Wu has reportedly confessed the clothes were not shot outside a labour camp but in the provincial capital Urumqi and were 'clearly not' export products made in prison. The programme said a third of the goods sold in shops in Xinjiang and half the province's exports were made in labour camps but Wu is quoted as denying this and saying the graves were those of 'common people', not convicts.

Xinhua also says Wu admitted deliberately misrepresenting pictures purportedly showing a kidney operation in a hospital in Chengdu where a patient was really undergoing cardiac surgery.

He also confessed that neither he nor Ms Lloyd-Roberts saw foreign patients in the hospital although his documentary said it was full of patients from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Europe and the US.

The BBC yesterday stood by the documentary saying: 'We are very happy with it.' But, to ensure that each and every aspect of the Chinese statement was examined, Ms Lloyd-Roberts and senior figures in the corporation were going through it again to back up their claims.

A BBC spokesman said it had been known for some time that the Chinese Government had taken a 'dim view' of the programme but - just to be sure following the initial statements from Beijing - senior journalists had reviewed the documentary. They then spoke to Ms Lloyd-Roberts and reached the conclusion the story was 'sound'.