Sweden’s lonely boxing match with Beijing

“Sino-Swedish relations took a sharp dip in 2015, when Gui Minhai, a Swedish bookseller known for publishing books critical of Chinese leaders, disappeared from his home in Thailand only to later show up in Chinese custody accused of causing a traffic accident.

Stockholm pushed for Gui’s release, but made little progress in securing his return to Sweden.

After years of simmering diplomatic tension over the case, relations worsened again in late 2019, when a Swedish NGO awarded Gui a prize and a Swedish minister attended the award ceremony in Stockholm.

The incident triggered a forceful response from Beijing: The Chinese ambassador to Sweden accused the government of “interfering in China’s internal affairs and judicial sovereignty” and trade missions to Stockholm were canceled.

In an interview with Swedish state television, he also compared Swedish media coverage of the Gui case to a lightweight boxer who keeps challenging a heavyweight to a fight and won’t back off. “What choice do you expect the heavyweight boxer to have?”

His comments sent a chill through Sweden’s political, diplomatic and business communities and were condemned by the foreign minister as “unacceptable.””


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