China cancels Sweden business trips after prize for dissident

Publisher Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen, was jailed in mainland China after disappearing from Thailand in 2015.

    Gui Minhai was awarded Swedish PEN's Tucholsky Prize last month [Fredrik Sandberg/EPA]
    Gui Minhai was awarded Swedish PEN's Tucholsky Prize last month [Fredrik Sandberg/EPA]

    China has called off two business delegation visits to Sweden, China's ambassador in Stockholm said on Thursday, after Culture Minister Amanda Lind defied a Chinese threat of "countermeasures" by presenting a rights prize to publisher Gui Minhai.

    Tensions between the two countries have been strained since Gui, who is known for publishing books about Chinese political leaders out of Hong Kong, disappeared in 2015 before reappearing in mainland China.

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    Earlier this month, Sweden's former ambassador to Beijing Anna Lindstedt was accused of brokering an unauthorised meeting to try to win Gui's freedom. Lindstedt now faces trial and could face up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

    Lind presented Swedish PEN's Tucholsky Prize to Gui last month with the detained publisher represented by an empty chair.

    Threats

    China had threatened "countermeasures" before 55-year-old Gui was awarded the Swedish rights prize in November.

    "As far as I know, two large delegations of businessmen who were planning to travel to Sweden have cancelled their trip," China's ambassador to Sweden Gui Congyou said.

    In early December, Sweden's foreign ministry said Beijing had postponed a visit to Stockholm planned for December 10 to discuss trade between the countries.

    "China has no plans to return to this commission's table at the moment. The ball is in the Swedish court. We are waiting," the ambassador added.

    Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said in November the country would not give in to threats.

    Gui Minhai disappeared from Thailand in 2015, appearing several months later on Chinese state television confessing to a fatal drink-driving accident from more than 10 years back.

    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 a political repression campaign orchestrated by Chinese authorities.

    China is Sweden's eighth-largest trading partner, behind the United Kingdom and ahead of France, according to the Swedish Institute for statistics.

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    SOURCE: AFP news agency