- Sweden is reportedly investigating its ambassador to China after a detained activist’s daughter had a bizarre and threatening meeting with unnamed businessmen set up by the ambassador.
- Angela Gui, the daughter of detained Hong Kong author Gui Minhai, said Sweden’s ambassador to China invited her to a meeting about getting her father freed, but they pressed her for information and got threatening.
- It turns out, Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign affairs had no idea about the meeting, and is now investigating the ambassador.
- China has a long and well-documented history of creepy moves to try to silence activists.
Sweden is reportedly investigating its ambassador to China after Angela Gui, the daughter of detained Hong Kong author Gui Minhai, had a bizarre and at times threatening meeting with unnamed Chinese businessmen promising access to her father.
Gui Minhai disappeared while on vacation in Thailand in 2015. He had previously lived in Hong Kong, where he had written more than 200 books on China’s political leaders, often detailing aspects of their personal and business dealings that were censored on the mainland.
His daughter has since taken up the mantle of petitioning for his release and raising awareness for what many see as China’s communist party cracking down on democratic Hong Kong.
In a recent blog post, the younger Gui detailed an effort by Anna Lindstedt, Sweden’s ambassador to China, to introduce her to businessmen who promised to advance her father’s case in exchange for her halting her activism or engagement with media.
“In mid-January I was contacted by Anna Lindstedt, Sweden’s ambassador to China. Her and I had been in quite frequent touch over the phone since her assignment two and a half years ago. She asked me to travel to Stockholm for around the 24th of January, saying there was ‘a new approach’ to my father’s case. She didn’t explain very much, but said that there were some businessmen she thought could help, and that they wanted to meet me in Stockholm. She’d join too, and these were people she trusted, she reassured me,” Gui wrote. (Read her full account here.)
From there, Gui is taken to the members lounge of a hotel in Stockholm, where she isn’t allowed to leave unsupervised. Gui describes having to ask for someone to let her out to use the bathroom, and that she was followed on her trips to the restroom.
Gui said she asked to see a friend, but was told to have the friend come to the lounge instead. Gui said she was flattered by the businessmen who asked her personal questions and eventually offered her a job and a visa in China, where her father had been detained for years. Gui declined.
“There was a lot of wine, a lot of people, and a lot of increasingly strange questions. But because Ambassador Lindstedt was present and seemingly supportive of whatever it was that was going on, I kept assuming that this had been initiated by the Swedish Foreign Ministry,” Gui wrote.
Finally, amid vague promises of the businessmen helping her father’s case, one snapped at Gui and issued a threatening message. The businessman insisted Gui tell him everything she knew about her father’s case, but Gui responded she didn’t trust him.
“You have to trust me, or you will never see your father again,” the businessman said, according to Gui. The businessman then said Gui would damage Lindstedt’s career if she spoke to the media, and Lindstedt warned that China would “punish” Sweden if she continued in her activism.
Later, Gui would call Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to find out they had no idea about the meeting.
“They told me they hadn’t had the slightest idea this whole affair was taking place. They hadn’t even been informed the ambassador was in the country,” Gui wrote.
Swedish news website SVT later corroborated Gui’s claim that Sweden’s foreign ministry didn’t know about the meetings or that Lindstedt was in the country. SVT also reported that Sweden was investigating Lindstedt.
China and Sweden’s strange diplomatic battles
China and Sweden have locked diplomatic horns before, with China alleging that Sweden violated the human rights of Chinese tourists because a hotel had kicked them out of the lobby after they showed up half a day early for their reservation at the hotel.
A bizarre video of the incident surfaced which showed the tourists throwing themselves on the ground and crying, claiming the Swedish police had attempted to brutally murder them. China’s embassy leapt to the tourist’s defence, alleging human rights violations.
China also recently detained two Canadian citizens and may have sentenced them to death in what was largely seen as a retaliation for Canada detaining Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, until she could be extradited to the US.
Following the detentions, the US State Department issued a travel advisory urging US citizens to “exercise increased caution” when travelling to the People’s Republic of China, as they may not return home.
China strictly monitors all media available within the country and has laws that allow it to coerce its citizens into giving the government or military any assistance it asks for. This degree of control over its citizenry has led many to accuse China of weaponizing its tourist industry.
Ethnic Chinese living abroad often report that their families back on mainland China are being threatened in attempts to silence activism.
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