Chinese embassy in Sweden warns of ‘bad consequences’ after Gui Minhai gets literary prize

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“We oppose even more resolutely any Swedish government officials attending the award ceremony.”

China would “surely take countermeasures”, the envoy said, adding that “some people in Sweden shouldn’t expect to feel at ease after hurting the feelings of the Chinese people”.

He told Swedish news agency TT that any government representative attending the ceremony would be declared unwelcome in China.

The embassy also said in a statement that the “serious mistake by the Swedish side undoubtedly creates serious difficulties to normal friendly exchanges and cooperation between China and Sweden”.

In spite of China’s threats, Sweden’s Culture and Democracy Minister Amanda Lind attended the ceremony.

“Those in power should never take the liberty to attack free artistic expression or free speech,” she said while presenting the award in Stockholm.

Sweden’s culture minister Amanda Lind presents Svenska PEN's Tucholsky Prize to detained Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai in Stockholm. Photo: Reuters

Sweden’s culture minister Amanda Lind presents Svenska PEN’s Tucholsky Prize to detained Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai in Stockholm. Photo: Reuters

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said earlier in the day that the Scandinavian country would not back down.

“We are not going to give in to this type of threat. Never. We have freedom of expression in Sweden and that’s how it is, period,” he told Swedish Television.

Lind had earlier called Beijing’s threat “serious”.

“We have made it clear to China’s representatives that we stand by our position that Gui Minhai must be released and that we have freedom of expression in Sweden,” she told TT.

“This means that Swedish PEN must, of course, be allowed to award this prize to whoever they want, free of any influence. And as culture and democracy minister it is natural for me to attend the award ceremony.”

Relations between Sweden and China have been strained for several years over Gui Minhai’s detention.

He has appeared on Chinese state television confessing to a fatal drink-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, travelling with Swedish diplomats.

His supporters and family have claimed his detention is part of a political repression campaign orchestrated by Chinese authorities.

The Chinese ambassador said Gui had “spread lies and viciously attacked the Chinese government”, adding that Beijing supported “freedom of expression based on objective facts, not ‘freedom of lies’”.

The Tucholsky Prize, named after German writer Kurt Tucholsky, who moved to Sweden in the early 1930s as a refugee from Nazi Germany, is worth 150,000 kronor (US$15,500). The prize was established in 1984 and has been previously won by Adam Zagajevski, Nuruddin Farah, Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasrin and Svetlana Alexievich, among others.

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