State media have ramped up their campaign against detained journalist Xiang Nanfu, accusing him of consorting with prostitutes and having sex with fellow petitioners, while emphasising his lack of education.
Xiang was detained and has confessed to selling US website fabricated information deemed “harmful” to China.
As analysts linked Xiang’s arrest to a wider crackdown on critics and dissidents ahead of the Tiananmen anniversary, state media aired the full confession video.
Xiang, a long-time contributor to Boxun.com, a community website that covers human rights and politics in China, confessed on CCTV yesterday that he sent more than 1,000 articles to Boxun containing fabricated information.
Xiang suggested Boxun’s owners “used” him to gain information critical of China.
“Boxun wants to use me to collect negative information about China. I, on the other hand, want to earn some money from [them]. I don’t have money,” Xiang said in a clip of the confession.
“I sent [the owner of the website] photos and articles as he required. To show off – also for money and to build good relationship with other petitioners – I didn’t verify information. Sometimes I even exaggerate or fabricate. As long as it can be published, I’d do so,” Xiang said.
Boxun founder Waston Meng today denied the allegation in an interview with the South China Morning Post. He said Xiang had never asked for money.
Xiang admitted having sex with other petitioners and said he “patronised prostitutes several times with other people”.
“I truly regret what I have done. I hope the government can give me an opportunity to correct myself and make a contribution,” said Xiang.
Before becoming a Boxun contributor, Xiang, 62, was a petitioner – an often risky undertaking that local officials try to suppress – after feeling dissatisfied with compensation from the demolition of his property.
Earlier today, the state-affiliated Global Times published an editorial suggesting that such websites blindly criticise China’s political system. “These websites focus on attacking the rise of China; that’s why they still exist,” said the editorial.
State media reports also played up Xiang’s “lack of education” and criminal supposed record.
The Beijing Public Safety Bureau said Xiang, who stopped school after junior high, was convicted of larceny multiple times and was once sentenced to nine years in jail.
But Meng countered that Xiang’s alleged crimes were during the Cultural Revolution when the legal system was skewed.
Meng said his website twice tried to publish announcements about Xiang’s situation, but these were quickly deleted by hackers.
“The arrest of Xiang has started to impact our reporting, especially in Beijing,” said Meng. “But I don’t worry too much. Xiang is an individual case. Most of our contributors are volunteers all over the nation. I also told them to stay safe.”
The police started the investigation on Xiang in January last year, state media said.
Meng said Xiang issued a letter of attorney, entrusting his lawyer to act on his behalf, last August after police questioned him and searched his house for the third time last year.
Xiang was detained for allegedly "picking quarrels and provoking trouble", which is "a catch-all charge used by the authorities to detain anyone they don't like, especially outspoken intellectuals", said Cheng Yizhong, the former chief editor of the outspoken Southern Metropolis Daily.
Meanwhile, Chinese police broke up a dinner party attended by activists in the eastern city of Hangzhou last night and detained a dozen people, according to an activist who attended the dinner.
Activist and blogger Wang Wusi said he and another 10 people were released after spending about two hours in police custody. He said police held Wen Kejian until this morning, when he was released.
Wen is a signatory of Charter 08, a document calling for democracy and the end of one-party rule in China. The attendants included intellectuals such as Liu Junning and Mo Zhixu.
Wang said police warned them that they would not be allowed to meet. He said they organised the event in response to the recent detentions of other activists.
“Recently, inside the country people have been getting nervous because they’ve been detaining people,” Wang said. “We just wanted to get together and discuss this because we all feel the pressure growing.”
The Hangzhou police did not answer repeated telephone calls seeking comment.
In recent weeks, police have also detained well-known human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, journalist Gao Yu and others ahead of the politically sensitive 25th anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen Square protests and crackdown.
Additional reporting by Associated Press