Former Swedish Ambassador Under Investigation
Anna Lindstedt, Sweden’s former ambassador to China, is under criminal investigation for breaches of national security, Sarah Zheng reports at South China Morning Post. Lindstedt was recalled to Stockholm in February after Angela Gui, daughter of detained Swedish publisher Gui Minhai, revealed in a Medium article that the former ambassador had invited her to a “very strange” meeting in January with two Chinese businessmen who offered to help her father if she agreed to stop all media engagement on the case.
Deputy Chief Prosecutor Hans Ihrman confirmed Swedish media reports that Anna Lindstedt was “under ongoing investigation” for the relevant national security crimes without further elaboration, the Swedish Prosecution Authority told the South China Morning Post in an email reply.
It was reported earlier that Lindstedt had been recalled from Beijing to meet with Swedish foreign ministry officials, and Stockholm later said it was conducting an internal investigation over her “incorrect action” connected to events occurring at the end of January.
[…] In the post, Gui said that Lindstedt had asked her to come to Stockholm on January 24 for “a new approach” to her father’s case, but ended up in a meeting with unnamed Chinese businessmen who offered to help secure her father’s release. She said they threatened her to stop engaging with the media or it would damage Lindstedt’s career, and that she had to trust them or she would never see her father again.
When Gui later contacted Swedish foreign affairs officials, they told her that they were not aware of the meeting. [Source]
Gui Minhai was one of five Hong Kong-based publishers who were abducted by mainland authorities and taken to China in late 2015. Gui vanished from his vacation home in Pattaya, Thailand before resurfacing months later in detention in mainland China. Gui was released in October 2017 after serving two years in prison for an alleged fatal traffic accident. He then lived under surveillance in China before being detained again in January 2018 while travelling on a train with Swedish diplomats.
“There was a lot of wine, a lot of people, and a lot of increasingly strange questions,” Gui wrote. “But because Ambassador Lindstedt was present and seemingly supportive of whatever it was that was going on, I kept assuming that this had been initiated by the Swedish Foreign Ministry.”
She wrote that the meetings mostly took place in a hotel lounge only accessible by a key card, and when Gui wanted to meet a friend she was told to invite the friend to the lounge as well. Gui, who has spent the years since her father’s imprisonment campaigning for his release, said the businessmen made vague promises to help her father and even offered her a job in China and help arranging a visa.
The businessmen claimed to be in touch with the Chinese Communist Party, Gui said in her blog post, and at one point offered to help her father in exchange for Gui’s silence and an end to her campaigning. They also claimed that Lindstedt’s career would be damaged if Gui continued to speak to media.
“Ambassador Lindstedt, who was sat next to me, agreed to the plan. She said that if my father was released, she’d go on Swedish television and speak of the bright future of Sweden-China relations, as well as express regret over the Chinese tourist hotel incident in Stockholm last year, and the subsequent coverage of it on a Swedish comedy show,” Gui wrote. [Source]
Anna Lindstedt has been appointed a lawyer, who stated that Lindstedt “welcomes” an investigation and denies any criminal wrongdoing.
At Hong Kong Free Press, Gray Sergeant compares Gui Minhai’s plight with Ayatollah Khomeini’s call for the murder of novelist Salman Rushdie 30 years ago. Sergeant looks at how Gui’s detention “is yet another reminder of the threat that dictators pose to free expression.”
Thirty years ago free societies did not respond well to Khomeini’s frontal assault. With China, its attempts to alter what we see in films and distort the intellectual space through money and other “soft” measures to restrict views it does not like were allowed to pass, and then it escalated to Gui Minhai, not that his alarming case got that much more attention.
Like the Rushdie Affair, the case of Gui Minhai exposes the extraordinary lengths despots will go to in order to silence dissenters who merely write and publish books. Both cases have had far-reaching consequences in terms of chilling free expression which looks set to continue for many decades.
What is more, the action taken against both these men has been tragic for them, their family and their friends. Yet the attacks on them are not a matter just for their nearest and dearest but something which should concern us all.
Freedom of expression is a key foundation of any liberal and open society, and it is in the interest of these free societies to defend it. Those who believe in freedom of speech must, to paraphrase George Orwell, keep telling dictators what they don’t want to hear. [Source]