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China/Sweden: Open letter to China’s President Xi Jinping

Thursday 20 February 2020 - 9:18am

Publisher and PEN member Gui Minhai

Four years ago, the Swedish citizen Gui Minhai, writer and publisher, was kidnapped in Thailand and later imprisoned in China. The case has increasingly gained attention in Sweden and internationally. More and more people have engaged in the issue due to China’s total lack of respect for Gui Minhai’s human rights and for the country’s disregard of fundamental international principles of law.

On the home page of the Chinese embassy in Stockholm, under the heading “Spokesperson’s Remarks,” there was initially a campaign against people who engaged in Gui Minhai’s case. Many Swedish journalists, editors, publishers, politicians, organisations, and researchers have since been victims of the embassy’s harassments. Moreover, China’s ambassador in Sweden, Ambassador Gui Congyou, has recently escalated this kind of rhetoric.

When Swedish PEN awarded Gui Minhai the Tucholsky Prize in November 2019, the Ambassador threatened the organisation that it would “come to feel the consequences of its decision.” And when confronted with the fact that the Swedish Minister of Culture Amanda Lind aimed to hand out the prize despite this critique from China, the Ambassador threatened to refuse the Minister of Culture future entry into China.

Sweden is a democracy, which means that Sweden has a freedom of expression. We defend this freedom by, for example, not allowing foreign diplomats to use insult or threat to silence anyone. Those who have signed this open letter want to help defend the democratic rights of our citizens.

We demand that

  • China’s Ambassador Gui Congyou stop insulting and threatening persons who criticize China and who engage with the case of Gui Minhai.
  • China respect the human rights of Gui Minhai.
  • China release Gui Minhai so that he can return home.

Signed by:

Kristina Ahlinder, Chief Executive of The Swedish Publishers’ Association

Robert Aschberg, Chairperson of the Swedish Publicists’ Association

Kurdo Baksi, author and opinion former

Jesper Bengtsson, Chairperson of Swedish PEN

Eva Bonnier, publisher Albert Bonniers förlag

Ove Bring, Professor Emeritus of International Law

Jennifer Clement, author and Chairperson of PEN International

Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders

Peter Englund, author and member of the Swedish Academy

Magnus Fiskesjö, Professor at Cornell University

Eva Gedin, Chief Executive of Norstedt’s Publishing Group

Angela Gui, daughter of Gui Minhai

Erik Halkjaer, Chairperson of Reporters Without Borders

Richard Herold, Publishing Director of Natur & Kultur

Ulrika Hyllert, Chairperson of the Swedish Union of Journalists

Lisa Irenius, Culture Editor of Svenska Dagbladet

Martin Kaunitz, Publisher Kaunitz-Olsson

David Lagercrantz, author and board member of Swedish PEN

Ola Larsmo, author and board member of PEN International

Marianne Lindberg De Geer, artist and author

Torbjörn Lodén, Professor Emeritus of the Chinese Language and Culture

Karin Olsson, Culture Editor of Expressen

Karin Pettersson, Culture Editor of Aftonbladet

Grethe Rottböll, Chairperson of The Swedish Writers’ Union

Axel Schulman, author

Steve Sem-Sandberg, author

Björn Werner, Culture Editor of Göteborgs-Posten

Björn Wiman, Culture Editor of Dagens Nyheter

Elisabeth Åsbrink, author and former chairperson of Swedish PEN

Ida Ölmedal, Culture Editor of HD-Sydsvenskan