Ex-Swedish ambassador to China faces trial over Gui Minhai meeting

Ex-Swedish ambassador to China faces trial over Gui Minhai meeting
File photo of the Swedish Embassy in Beijing. Photo: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein
Sweden's former ambassador to China faces an unprecedented trial over allegations she overstepped her authority during a meeting to secure the release of imprisoned bookseller Gui Minhai.

Anna Lindstedt, ambassador to Beijing from 2016 to early 2019, has been under investigation since February over a meeting she allegedly set up in Stockholm between Gui Minhai’s daughter and businessmen claiming to have connections to the Chinese Communist Party, without informing the Swedish foreign ministry.

Gui Minhai, a Chinese-born Swedish citizen known for publishing gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders out of a Hong Kong book shop, disappeared while vacationing in Thailand in 2015 before resurfacing in mainland China.

The Swedish prosecution authority on Monday charged Lindstedt with “arbitrariness during negotiations with a foreign power”, saying she had overstepped the boundaries of her authority during the meeting at which she had been “in contact with persons representing the interests of the Chinese State”.

“An ambassador is the head of a public authority with a far-reaching mandate to represent Sweden; nonetheless, even ambassadors must adhere to certain guidelines and instructions issued by the Government Offices of Sweden and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. In this specific consular matter, she has exceeded her mandate and has therefore rendered herself criminally liable,” said prosecutor Hans Ihrman in a statement.

“A charge of arbitrariness during negotiations with a foreign power is unprecedented in modern times.”

The Swedish foreign ministry has said it knew nothing about the meeting nor that the ambassador was even in Stockholm at the time. Lindstedt herself has denied the allegations a crime was committed.

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Relations between Sweden and China have been strained for several years over the detention, over the detention of Gui Minhai, who disappeared from a vacation home in Thailand in 2015. Several months later he appeared on Chinese state television confessing to a fatal drunk driving accident from more than a decade earlier.

He served two years in prison, but three months after his October 2017 release he was again arrested while on a train to Beijing while travelling with Swedish diplomats. His supporters and family have claimed his detainment is part of political repression campaign orchestrated by Chinese authorities.

His daughter Angela Gui, who has been actively campaigning for her father's release, wrote in February on her blog that Lindstedt had invited her to Stockholm in January.

During discussions in the lounges of a fancy hotel in the Swedish capital, in the presence of the ambassador, she was introduced to Chinese businessmen who claimed they could help negotiate her father's release. In exchange, Angela Gui said she was told to “stop all media engagement”.

The Chinese embassy in Stockholm said in a statement at the time that Beijing “has never authorized and will not authorize anyone to engage with Gui Minhai's daughter”.


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