Stockholm Stood Up By Beijing Over Human Rights Award
According to China’s ambassador to Stockholm, Gui Congyou, China has called off two business delegations to Sweden after a human rights prize was awarded to Hong Kong dissident Gui Minhai. Swedish Culture Minister Amanda Lind presented the PEN’s Tucholsky prize to the activist last month, defying threats of “counter measures” from Beijing.
Earlier this month, Sweden’s foreign ministry said Beijing had postponed a trip to Stockholm initially planned for 10 December. The visit was set to focus on discussions of trade between the two countries.
“As far as I know, two large delegations of businessmen who were planning to travel to Sweden have cancelled their trip,” Ambassador Gui Congyou said, “China has no plans to return to this commission’s table at the moment. The ball is in the Swedish court. We are waiting.”
‘This is not the first time that the Chinese regime has tried to intimidate those highlighting the egregious case of injustice against Gui Minhai,” read a statement from PEN International President Jennifer Clement.
“No matter what coercive measures the Chinese authorities employ, they cannot erase the facts of this case: Gui Minhai was kidnapped, disappeared for several months, forced into three televised confessions and remains in prison today, simply for publishing books critical of the Chinese authorities.
We fully support Swedish PEN and its decision to award Gui Minhai the Tucholsky Award and are appalled that they have faced threats by the Chinese Embassy in response to that decision.”
Gui Minhai disappeared from his vacation home in Thailand in 2015, only emerging several months later on Chinese state television confessing to a fatal drink driving accident from over a decade earlier. Forced confessions are, tragically, typical of China’s judiciary process- especially when activists and dissidents are involved.
Even so, Gui Minhai served two years in prison. Three months after his release in October 2017, he was again arrested on a train to Beijing, this time while travelling with Swedish diplomats.
Adding fuel to ongoing Sweden-China tensions are accusations levelled at Sweden’s former ambassador to Beijing, Anna Lindstedt, over the brokering of an unauthorised meeting in a bid to free Gui Minhai. Lindstedt now faces trial by the Swedish Prosecution Authority, and faces up to ten years in prison if she is convicted.
“An ambassador is the head of a public authority with a far-reaching mandate to represent Sweden; nonetheless, even ambassadors must adhere to certain guidelines and instructions issued by the Government Offices of Sweden and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs,” said Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor at the National Security Unit Hans Ihrman, “In this specific consular matter, she has exceeded her mandate and has therefore rendered herself criminally liable.”
Meanwhile, the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said the country will not be giving in to threats of any kind from China.
“We are not going to give in to this type of threat. Never,” Lofven told Swedish Television last month, “We have freedom of expression in Sweden, and that’s how it is, period,”
For now, China is Sweden’s eighth-largest trading partner, ahead of France, and largest trading partner in Asia.