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China airs documentary showing officials ‘confessing’ to graft

world Updated: Oct 21, 2016 00:57 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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A military band plays at the celebration of the 95th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, July 1, 2016. (REUTERS)

China has begun airing an eight-part television documentary series showing Communist leaders confessing to corruption on camera, including one who repented burying a pet turtle according to Buddhist rituals.

At least 10 provincial leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC) will be shown confessing to corruption charges. The show will be aired on prime time television by national broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV).

It’s not clear how the confessions were extracted: whether the narratives were indeed confessions or whether the on-camera words of repentance were forced and coaxed out.

But as it turns out, the dodgy nature of the documentary – or maybe because of it – has made it a hit with hundreds of thousands clicking on its link on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like online platform.

Legal experts said the “confessions” on television go against natural justice, where the suspect talks, or gives evidence, against himself.

For Zhou Benshun, the former CPC chief of Hebei province near Beijing, burying his pet turtle according to Buddhist rituals went against the atheist ideologies of the Communist party. It was part of the confession he made on his obsession with Buddhism.

“Zhou said he donated money to temples whenever he could and gave his dead pet turtle a Buddhist rite and buried it with handwritten scriptures,” state media reported.

The title of the documentary series, “Always on the Road”, is apparently a reference to President Xi Jinping’s widespread anti-corruption campaign that has netted thousands of corrupt officials and CPC members, including some very powerful leaders.

The series was jointly produced by the Publicity Department of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC and CCTV.

The series, according to state media reports, also includes footage from the trials of powerful CPC leaders such as Bo Xilai, the former party chief of Chongqing municipality, and Zhou Yongkang, former security czar and former member of the standing committee of the political bureau of the CPC Central Committee.

Party officials are proud of the documentary.

“Compared with past education materials on anti-corruption, this documentary is more impressive. Introspection from these corrupt officials could serve as a warning as well as a reminder to all officials to abide by CPC discipline,” Fu Siming from the CPC party school told the nationalistic Global Times tabloid.

It clearly doesn’t matter that, according to legal experts, the so-called “confessions” on camera are a fairly damning comment on the lack of transparency in China’s judicial system.