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Pensioner indicted over China spy scandal

A 61-year-old pensioner has been indicted in Stockholm on charges of spying on behalf of the Chinese government.

Charges filed by prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand accuse the Mandarin-speaking Swedish citizen of illegally gathering intelligence on people of Uighur origin living in Sweden.

Intelligence agency Säpo arrested the suspect on June 4th after a lengthy investigation and surveillance period for allegedly gathering information on Sweden’s 100-strong Uighur community.

The suspect came to Sweden as a political refugee in the 1990s. If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison.

According to the indictment, the 61-year-old passed on information to two handlers about members of Uighur clubs and associations in Sweden, Norway, Germany and the United States.

His handlers consisted of a diplomat attached to the Chinese embassy in Stockholm and a Chinese journalist, both of whom were tasked by Chinese intelligence services with securing details in Sweden about the interpersonal relationships of Uighurs.

The Swedish government expelled a Chinese diplomat earlier this year following revelations that the Chinese embassy was allegedly involved in spying on political refugees residing in Sweden.

According to the indictment, the suspect reported extensively on activity within the World Uyghur Congress (an umbrella organization for exiled Uighur groups), relayed notes taken during meetings with members of the Uighur community, and provided details of the local Uighur leaders’ levels of political access.

By befriending his targets and pretending to sympathize with them, he was also able to supply his handlers with details on the political asylum status of people of particular interest to the Chinese authorities, as well as information about their health, current whereabouts, travel patterns and telephone numbers.

The suspect’s intelligence gathering operation earned him rewards in the form of money and services, and spanned the period from January 2008 to June 2009.

Prosecutors said the crimes of which he was accused were of an aggravated nature as they were systematic, had been undertaken in a professional manner for a long period of time and could potentially cause serious damage to a large number of people.

Most ethnic Uighurs live in China’s Xinjiang autonomous region. China regularly condemns militant Uighur nationalists as “terrorists” and accuses the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) of carrying out attacks.

A recent US State Department human rights report accuses China of having stepped up repression of the Uighur community.

Paul O’Mahony/AFP

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CHINA

Sweden’s Volvo Cars may merge with Chinese owner Geely

Sweden's Volvo Cars and its Chinese owner Geely announced on Monday that they are considering merging into a single group in order to share resources, but would preserve their separate brands.

Sweden's Volvo Cars may merge with Chinese owner Geely
File photo of a Volvo test-drive. Photo: Christine Olsson / TT

The merged firm “would have the scale, knowledge and resources to be a leader in the ongoing transformation of the automotive industry,” they said in a statement.

“The combination would preserve the distinct identity of each of the brands Volvo, Geely, Lynk & Co and Polestar,” they added.

Geely bought Volvo in 2010 from Ford which hadn't been able to turn around the Swedish automaker. But under the Chinese firm Volvo has rebounded and smashed its sales records.

Volvo sold more than 705,000 vehicles in 2019, besting the record it set in 2018 by 10 percent, and the automaker expects continued growth this year.

The statement said the firms would create a joint working group to prepare a proposal for the boards of both firms.

“A combined company would have access to the global capital market through Hong Kong and with the intention to subsequently list in Stockholm as well,” it added.

Volvo put off a share listing in 2018 due to tensions in global markets.

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