STOCKHOLM – China putting pressure on Swedish media

Seven out of the country’s eight biggest newsrooms said that in the last two years the Chinese embassy had contacted them and criticised their content on China, according to a survey conducted by Swedish national television.

News outlets considered too critical have received emails and phone calls from the embassy and some journalists have been invited to discussions to learn about the official – and “correct” – state of affairs in China. 

Ann Linde, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has invited the ambassador, Gui Congyou for an interview and consultation.

“In Sweden, we have freedom of expression and what the Chinese ambassador is now doing is very serious. The Swedish Foreign Ministry and I have repeatedly spoken with the ambassador and emphasised that freedom of expression is a constitutional right. Journalists must have a right to do their work freely,” said Linde in an interview with Swedish television.

The Christian Democrats and the Left Party have even been ready to deport the ambassador, but so far Sweden’s Foreign Minister has favoured dialogue and maintaining direct contact with Beijing.

But the Chinese ambassador hasn’t exactly been conciliatory, accusing the Swedish media of interfering with China’s internal affairs. And if that wasn’t enough, the defiant ambassador has compared the situation to a boxing match. “It is as if a 48-kilo featherweight boxer would try to challenge an 86-kilo heavyweight fighter. And the latter would, in all kindness, just ask the former to take care of its own business,” said Mr Congyou, according to Swedish television.

At the centre of this debacle lies the fate of Swedish citizen Gui Minhai, a Hong Kong-based-bookseller who had published books criticising the Chinese leadership. Mr Minhai has been abducted by Chinese agents in 2015 and 2018 and has since remain imprisoned. Although Sweden has declared that these actions are violating international law, China claims that Mr Minhai is a criminal guilty of serious offences.

Last November, the Swedish PEN awarded Mr Minhai a freedom of speech award in absentia. The Chinese responded fast, as the Swedish ministers who attended the ceremony are now considered persona non grata. (Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)

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