A Tibetan refugee living in Sweden was last Friday found guilty of gathering information for China on fellow Tibetans in the region. The 49-year-old Tibetan man, Dorjee Gyantsan, has been sentenced to 22 months in jail. The AP’s Jan M. Olsen reports:
The Sodertorn District Court, near Stockholm, convicted Dorjee Gyantsan, a 49-year old Tibetan who worked for a pro-Tibetan radio station, of “gross illegal intelligence activity” carried out from July 2015 to February 2017.
Judge Daniel Eriksson said the Swedish intelligence service’s investigation had proven that Gyantsan “several times traveled to Poland to meet a Chinese intelligence officer” and that those meetings were “part of a comprehensive intelligence campaign aimed at people of Tibetan descent.”
[…] The information passed on by Gyantsan “may have caused great damage to Tibetans both in Sweden and abroad,” Eriksson added.
The court said Gyantsan was paid for the information that included personal matters, ranging from where people lived and family relations to political activities, trips and meetings. Swedish media reported the man had received 50,000 kronor ($6,000) on at least one occasion and had his expenses paid.
His lawyer, Mikael Soderberg, told Swedish news agency TT that his client denies any wrongdoing, saying he didn’t know that he person he met was an intelligence officer. Soderberg said his client would appeal. […] [Source]
Dorjee Gyantsan was first arrested in February 2017, but initially released after a few weeks; he was indicted in April 2018 for spying between July 2015 and February 2017. Following the indictment, The New York Times’ Christina Anderson relayed responses from Swedish officials and members of Sweden’s exiled Tibetan community:
“This is a very serious crime,” [state prosecutor] Mr. [Mats] Ljungqvist said in a statement issued on Wednesday. “Espionage affects very vulnerable people. People who have escaped to Sweden from totalitarian regimes must feel safe to enjoy their basic freedoms, such as the right to protest against a regime without their relatives being put at risk.”
[…] “We were really shocked,” Jamyang Choedon, president of the Tibetan Community in Sweden, said of the case.
[…] “All the Tibetans who come to Sweden get connected,” she said. “We get together and meet at each other’s places and eat together go for demonstrations and other events together.” She added of the defendant: “He was at those events.”
[…] Lisa Simonsson, deputy director of [Sweden’s security service] SAPO’s counterespionage unit, said refugee espionage had been going on for many years in Sweden.
“We see it as a very severe crime. It’s a threat towards democracy,” she said. “The consequences are enormous for the individual and also society when people do not feel safe expressing their opinions freely.” [Source]
In 2009, a Swedish citizen of Uyghur descent was sentenced to 16 months in jail for gathering information on fellow Uyghurs in the region.
Gyantsan’s sentencing comes amid fraught relations between Beijing and Stockholm. Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen and one of the Hong Kong-based booksellers who disappeared in 2015 to emerge in custody in China, was again taken into custody early this year while traveling with two Swedish diplomats in China. Sweden in January demanded his immediate release and condemned his “brutal” detention, but Gui later accused Sweden of “using me like a chess piece” in an interview with the South China Morning Post. Many China-focused rights advocates and journalists expressed suspicion that Gui’s sentiment in that interview did not reflect his true opinions.