China rejects spy case findings

China has strongly denied allegations that it illegally gathered information on members of the Uighur community after a Swedish court jailed a man for spying.

“This kind of accusation is totally groundless and has ulterior motives,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters, without giving any further details.

Babur Maihesuti, a 62-year-old Uighur man who had been living in Sweden for 13 years as a political refugee, was sentenced by a Stockholm court to 16 months in prison on Monday for spying on expatriates from the mainly Muslim minority.

Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Central Asian people residing in northwest China’s volatile Xinjiang region, have accused Beijing of decades of religious, cultural and political oppression — claims the government denies.

The region suffers from strong ethnic tensions. In July last year, nearly 200 people were killed when ethnic violence erupted in the regional capital Urumqi, according to official figures.

Maihesuti was found guilty of “aggravated illegal espionage activity” by the Swedish court.

The court found that from January 2008 to June 2009, he had collected personal information about exiled Uighurs, including details on their health, travel and political involvement, and passed it on to Beijing.

He had given the data to a Chinese diplomat and journalist who, on assignment from the nation’s intelligence service, carried out operations in Sweden for Beijing, the court said.

Qin would not be drawn on whether the case could have an impact on relations between China and Sweden.

“We attach great importance to Sino-Swedish relations, and hope to be able to develop ties on the basis of respect and mutual confidence,” he said.

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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.