Wang Gongquan, an outspoken advocate for greater civic involvement on the mainland, has confessed to disturbing the public order less than three months after being detained by Beijing police, three people said. The former venture capitalist is a close friend and supporter of arrested anti-corruption and rights activist Xu Zhiyong. Wang made video statements to police and said he would "sever the relationship" with Xu, if "that is what the authorities want", the people said. One of the people said Wang's gaunt appearance in the video added to fears that he had been mistreated during his detention. Wang, 52, was taken from his Beijing home on September 13 and formally arrested in October on a charge of "gathering a crowd to disturb order in public places". Late on Wednesday, Wang's lawyer, Chen Youxi, said on his verified microblog account thatBeijing police had told Wang's wife that her husband had volunteered to dismiss him as his defence counsel. "We cannot verify if the dismissal is based on Wang's own interests," Chen said, adding the detention facility where Wang was being held had rejected his most recent request for a meeting with Wang. However, Chen said in another microblog post yesterday that he might remain Wang's lawyer during trial. The people also said there was a possibility Wang's statements would be shown on China Central Television to demonstrate his willingness to co-operate with authorities to get a lighter punishment. In recent months, several suspects, including popular Weibo commentator Charles Xue Biqun , also known by his penname Xue Manzi , have appeared on national television to admit guilt even before authorities filed charges against them. Wang's arrest was widely seen as a result of his close links to Xu, one of the mainland's best-known civil rights campaigners. He joined a protest with Xu to win the release of detained petitioners from a "black jail" - unofficial detention centres for petitioners - in Beijing in 2011, and later helped Xu fund the New Citizen movement. After Xu was detained on the same charge in mid-July and formally arrested in late August, Wang helped to initiate a signature campaign for his release. At least 18 people involved in the New Citizen movement, which seeks for democracy, rule of law and civil rights, have been detained or arrested since April. One of the group's goals has also been the public disclosure of officials' assets. Some in the mainland activist community argue that the crackdown shows the Communist Party is not interested in long-term measures to address the country's corruption problem, even as it carries out a national campaign against graft. Wang's confession sparked heated debate on the internet after the South China Morning Post broke the news online. "We shall understand and support the decision Mr Wang made," one internet user wrote on Sina Weibo. "The democratic process of a nation cannot be accelerated by one's sacrifice."