Sweden: Chinese embassy threatens Swedish journalist

The Chinese Embassy in Sweden has reportedly threatened a Swedish freelance journalist, Jojje Olsson, over an article Chinese authorities deemed critical of Beijing. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) protests against Chinese authorities’ act of intimidation and calls on the Chinese embassy to respect freedom of expression.

Jojje Olsson. Credit: Facebook screenshot

The Swedish journalist, who is currently based in Taipei, revealed that he received a threatening email from the Chinese Embassy in Sweden on April 9. The embassy accused Olsson of “moral corruption” and demanded that the journalist stop his critical coverage of Beijing or “face the consequences of your own actions.”

The incident shocked Swedish politicians, prompting Lars Adaktusson, the foreign policy spokesman for the Christian Democrats and a member of the European Parliament to call for the expulsion of Chinese ambassador to Sweden, Gui Congyou.

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde has called the act of the Chinese embassy “unacceptable” but rejected the idea of expelling the Chinese ambassador.

Kerstin Lundgren, a deputy speaker of the Riksdag, described the recent incident as an increasingly visible tactic adopted by Chinese diplomats in response to critical reporting of the Chinese government.

“We’ve seen him attacking journalists before,” said Lundgren, referring to the Chinese ambassador. The speaker stressed that the government remains committed to defending freedom of expression.

The Chinese embassy fought back on April 11 by saying that some Swedish politicians had made “wrongful comments on China” which “we condemn and firmly oppose.”

This is not the first time that the Chinese ambassador has caused controversy. In January 2020, Gui was summoned by the Swedish Foreign Ministry after he made remarks comparing Swedish media to a lightweight boxer who "provokes a feud" with a heavyweight. The remarks were widely seen as an attempt to muzzle the Swedish press.

Jojje Olsson told the IFJ he had received several similar emails from the Chinese embassy, but the one sentin early April is “the harshest in its tone.”

This shows that the Beijing authorities are “ready to escalate their rhetoric and threats” to stop negative reporting on China, said the journalist, who also called on the Swedish government to take more action as “it is clear that only words are not enough.”

The IFJ said: The IFJ is deeply concerned about the intimidation campaign launched by Chinese diplomats to muzzle the free press in democratic countries. The IFJ urges all Chinese authorities to respect freedom of expression.

Note: This statement was amended to include Jojje Olsson's comments.

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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