Confessions and emotion, but not much insight on justice

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 January, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 January, 2004, 12:00am

The mainland's show-and-tell sessions with seven men accused of spying for Taiwan were nothing if not unusual.

In a legal system normally closed to the public for even minor crimes, it is unheard of for foreign journalists to be invited for a question-and-answer session with alleged enemies of the state.

But in one of four similar events staged around the nation yesterday, officials from the Guangdong provincial Taiwan Affairs Office summoned 40 print, television and radio journalists from Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong, to the Huifu Hotel in Guangzhou.

The reporters were driven to the Guangzhou City No1 Detention Centre, a collection of clean white buildings surrounded by manicured grass and a 10-metre wall. Inside were three Taiwanese businessmen accused of spying.

A dozen public security officers brought journalists to the centre's fourth floor-meeting hall - after taking their temperatures to check for Sars.

The newly furnished room had a long desk with one chair, with only three metres separating the accused and the audience.

It was difficult to watch as, one by one, the men were marched in to confess their crimes and humiliate themselves. In some cases the spying they were accused of was almost embarrassing - as trivial as writing down the licence plates of military vehicles.

At 3pm, the first suspect, Lin Chieh-shan, walked into the room flanked by five PLA officers and two public security bureau officials. Mr Lin appeared nervous but spoke calmly. The first question was whether he was being treated humanely. He said he was. He was asked the details of his alleged spying activities and his feelings for his family. Tung Tai-ping arrived moments after Mr Lin was led away. He appeared angry, mumbling his answers in two-word phrases. When a Taiwanese reporter read out a letter from his mother, Mr Tung remained emotionless.

Fu Hung-chang came next. He spoke with passionate remorse and expressed grief about the impact on his family. At one point, he was reduced to tears. At 4.15pm, Mr Fu's ordeal was finished and he was led outside by the guards.

And then it was over. The rare exhibition had ended, and journalists packed up their equipment and filed out of the room.