Chinese tourists visiting a Swedish hostel in Stockholm sparked an international incident when they appeared on video screaming and crying and accusing local police of trying to murder them.
The incident took place early in September, and has brought repeated Chinese demands for Sweden to investigate potential mistreatment of the tourists, which Sweden has refused outright.
The Chinese family, with the surname of Zeng, arrived at the hostel in Sweden one day before their check in time and asked to stay in the lobby. The Zengs say they were just a few hours earlier, but local media reports they may have arrived as many as 15 hours prior to their booking.
One local blog, InBeijing.se pointed out that the hostel’s lobby has a restaurant where the Zengs could have stayed indefinitely if they just bought a coffee.
Instead, the hostel eventually called police to have the Zengs removed, at which point they threw a fit.
Video of the event, taken both by the Zengs and bystanders show the youngest Zeng throwing himself on the ground and screaming and crying. The mother also screams and cries while the father lays motionless on the ground. Other angles of the video show the father completely limp as Swedish police carry him out of the hostel.
While the police carry the limp elder Zeng, the younger Zeng screams: “This is a killing!”
But the Global Times, a nationalistic Chinese state-run newspaper, quoted Zeng as saying additional armed police arrived and detained and beat the elder parents. Later, Chinese Ambassador to Sweden Gui Congyou gave an interview posted by Beijing’s embassy in Stockholm calling the treatment “brutal.”
Gui said numerous times that the tourists were treated in a “brutal” way without providing any evidence. Gui repeats what appears to have been a misunderstanding by the Zengs, who said they were dropped off in a graveyard. Swedish police say they were dropped off at a nearby train station named “Skogskyrkogården,” which translates to “Woodland Cemetery,” named after a local site that historically served as a cemetery.
The Chinese embassy called on Sweden multiple times to investigate the alleged wrongdoing, but Swedish prosecutor Mats Ericsson told the Aftonbladet that “we made the assessment that no crime on the part of the police had been committed.”
Later, InBeijing pointed out that the Zengs left Sweden and appeared to be in good spirits, making posts with pictures of them goofing off on a bridge elsewhere in Europe.
Chinese citizens who followed the drama on Chinese social media responded with a mix of sympathy and embarrassment.
“I really find these types of people too infuriating. Could they please not make a spectacle of themselves and give the motherland some face?” one user wrote.
Why is China taking it so hard?
A Swedish government source told Reuters that they believe China has overreacted to the incident because Sweden recently protested its citizen being held in China. “We think it’s related to Gui Minhai,” the source said, referring to a Swedish bookseller in Hong Kong abducted in Thailand and locked up since 2015.
“Sweden and the EU have repeatedly called for his release and Chinese authorities don’t like that.”
China’s ruling Communist party controls virtually every aspect of life for Chinese citizens. China frequently jails Hong Kong booksellers who offer books critical of the government. China has sparked UN scrutiny over its re-education camps that allegedly force the country’s Muslim minority to not observe their religion.
When pressed by the UN on the human rights overreaches, Li Xiaojun, director for publicity at the Bureau of Human Rights Affairs of China’s State Council Information Office cited terror attacks in Paris and Belgium by Muslim extremists as evidence that forced re-education was the right way to go.
China stands accused of weaponizing tourism as it seeks to make massive investments as part of its troubled Belt and Road initiative.
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