China’s ambassador criticises Sweden over support for Taiwan

China's ambassador criticises Sweden over support for Taiwan
Gui Congyou is China's ambassador to Sweden. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
China's ambassador to Sweden has criticised a Swedish statement in support of Lithuania, after the Baltic country took steps to develop links with Taiwan.

China considers Taiwan to be a part of China, and has often spoken out against countries treating it instead as an independent country.

Now China’s ambassador to Sweden has criticised the chairperson of the Swedish parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee over a statement he signed in support of Lithuania, which recently decided to exchange diplomatic offices in Taipei, and to recognise it as Taiwanese. In response, China recalled its ambassador from Vilnius.

In a letter to the Foreign Affairs Committee by ambassador Gui Congyou, he was quoted by the TT newswire as saying: “In the field of international relations, the norm is that Taiwan is part of China. The United States and some other countries always ask other countries to follow norms in international relations, but they often violate them themselves. Your participation in the current statement violates the principle of a China.”

The Local has submitted a request to parliament for a copy of the letter.

The chairperson of the committee, Kenneth G Forslund, said he had expected a reaction. He was one of 14 members of parliament to sign the statement condemning China’s pressure on Lithuania, along with colleagues from the United States, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Ireland, the Czech Republic, the Baltic countries and the European Parliament.

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Patrik Oksanen, senior fellow at Stockholm Free World Forum and co-author of a recent report mapping threats from the Chinese embassy against Sweden, said the latest statements were part of a long-term pattern. Relations between the countries have long been strained over Beijing’s detention of Chinese-born Swedish citizen Gui Minhai, who published gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders from a Hong Kong book shop and whose release has repeatedly been called for by Sweden.

“Since the arrival of Gui Congyou to Sweden in 2017 we have seen the Chinese Embassy embark on a road that means constant threats, semi-threats, bullying and lecturing with an Orwellian language when it comes to free speech, democracy and human rights. These remarks to Kenneth G Forslund fit the wider picture that China reacts on issues like Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang province, the case of Gui Minhai, origin of Covid and 5G. The aim is to foster the Swedish debate into self censorship and adaptations to Chinese interest by the combination of threatful language combined with threat of economic consequences,” said Oksanen in a written comment to The Local.

“The key here is Sweden’s long term reaction,” he added. “China has for the short term lost a lot of good will, but on the other hand, China can take being impopular for a decade if it means winning in the long run. If Sweden holds its ground and stands up for human rights, rule of law and democracy by acting in solidarity with other countries attacked by China I think it will strengthen the view of Sweden as a reliable Democracy. That is why the statement of solidarity with Lithuania from Mr Forslund was important. China wants to break this kind of solidarity and hence why Mr Forslund is now being attacked.”

According to the news site Europaportalen, four Swedish MEPs this week also received letters after they voted in favour of proposals for deepened relations between the EU and Taiwan.

One of the recipients, Christian Democrat David Lega, said: “This is not the first time I have received a letter from the Chinese embassy in Sweden this year. But what was a little different about this letter was that it was more threatening than in the previous ones. This letter stated that if I do not withdraw my support for the statement I voted for on Taiwan, I will be held responsible for the consequences.”

And as well as politicians, Swedish journalists have also reported receiving threats from China over their coverage. Last year, Sweden’s foreign ministry summoned Gui Congyou for talks after he appeared to try to intimidate the Swedish media, in an interview where he compared Sweden and China to a lightweight boxer repeatedly provoking a heavyweight boxer.

Sweden does not formally recognise Taiwan as an independent country, but Foreign Minister Ann Linde has said that the government wants to continue to develop its ties with Taiwan and “support its ability to participate in international organisations”.

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