China's embassy in Sweden under fire over 'threats' to journalist

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By Hannah Somerville
Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde called the Chinese embassy's email to a journalist "completely unacceptable"
Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde called the Chinese embassy's email to a journalist "completely unacceptable"   -  Copyright  Burhan Ozbilici/AP

China's embassy in Sweden has engaged in a public spat with Swedish politicians after its ambassador was accused of “threatening” a journalist.

Last week members of Sweden’s Christian Democrat and Sweden Democrat parties reiterated their demand for the expulsion of Chinese ambassador Gui Congyou.

It came after Swedish freelance journalist Jojje Olsson, who writes for the newspaper Expressen, said he had received an email from the embassy on Thursday, April 9.

The message had accused Olsson of “moral corruption” and asked him to cease his Beijing-critical coverage or “face the consequences of your own actions”.

Numerous Swedish politicians including Lars Adaktusson, foreign policy spokesman for the Christian Democrats, immediately called for the ambassador to be deported.

On Saturday, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde called the correspondence “completely unacceptable” but said Gui would not face expulsion as a consequence.

Tweet reads: "It is, of course, completely unacceptable for an embassy to make threatening statements against a journalist"

China hits back against 'mud-throwing' critics in Sweden

In a statement issued yesterday, the Chinese embassy in Stockholm wrote that the politicians had made “wrongful comments” which “we condemn and firmly oppose”.

It went on: “China is a courteous and respectful country that believes in mutual respect. It is only when one respects others, will one be respected. One who gives roses to others is the first to smell the flavour, but one who throws mud at others has dirt in the hand.”

The embassy then called for improved dialogue between China and Sweden and for the two countries to “focus on cooperation instead of differences”.

Deputy speaker: Expelling the Chinese ambassador won't make a difference

Kerstin Lundgren, a deputy speaker of the Riksdag and the Swedish Centre Party's spokesperson for foreign affairs, told EuroNews that Chinese diplomats had recently become more "visible" in their derision for China-critical coverage.

The latest terse incident comes just months after Gui Congyou was summoned to the Swedish Foreign Ministry following remarks he made that appeared to threaten journalists.

In a television interview on Friday, January 15 with the Swedish state broadcaster SVT, Gui accused the Swedish media of “smearing China”.

He went on to compare the relationship between Swedish reporters and the Chinese government to a 100-pound boxer challenging a 190-pound boxer to a fight, and concluded: “What choice do you expect the heavyweight boxer to have?”

"The behaviour of the ambassador is well-known," Lundgren told Euronews. "We've seen him attacking journalists before. Expelling him won't make a difference - he will be given a gold star back home for his actions and another will come here with the same mandate.

"The Chinese Communist Party wants to censor and shut down, and make sure there's only one story told. The ambassador acts on the orders of the communist regime, and we see it."

She added that she and colleagues were closely following human rights abuses committed against Uighur Muslims in China's Xinjiang province.

Last month the EU sanctioned four Chinese officials, including a top security director, in a move Beijing described as "confrontational".

Lundgren said Swedish politicians would also continue to present a united front in defence of free speech in the country. "All of us are standing clearly behind the journalists and freedom of expression," she said. "We are not followers of China, and they will not gain any followers through this behaviour."