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Archive for Sweden

Newsline: Swedish diplomats leave North Korea, but embassy remains open

Officials say Swedish staff have left the country’s embassy in North Korea but the mission remains open and is being staffed by local employees. A Foreign Ministry spokesman says the staff were temporarily relocated. He says the situation in North Korea for diplomats and international organizations has become more difficult, partly due to the coronavirus. (https://wbng.com/2020/08/18/swedish-diplomats-leave-n-korea-but-embassy-remains-open/) North Korea has imposed a lockdown and shut its border with China, its main ally and economic lifeline, in response to the coronavirus. Sweden has had diplomatic relations with North Korea since 1973 and is one of the few Western countries with an embassy there. It provides consular services for the U.S. in North Korea.

Newsline: Sweden’s Ex-Ambassador to China Is Cleared of Wrongdoing

A former Swedish ambassador to China was cleared of charges of wrongdoing on Friday, culminating a strange saga that combined elements of a spy novel with the opaque reality of dealing with an authoritarian state where people can be grabbed in public and disappear. It was the first time in modern history that a Swedish diplomat has been prosecuted for crimes against state security, and the often heated trial revolved around questions about the written and unwritten rules of diplomacy. The Swedish diplomat, Anna Lindstedt, was accused of overstepping the boundaries of her role by arranging what prosecutors said were secret back-room meetings over the fate of a Hong Kong bookseller and Swedish citizen who remains detained in China. The bookseller, Gui Minhai, has not been seen by his family or in public since February. Swedish prosecutors argued that Ms. Lindstedt had overstepped her authority in arranging a meeting between Mr. Gui’s daughter, Angela, and two businessmen who offered to help her secure her father’s freedom. Ms. Lindstedt’s defense team argued that she had acted solely out of a desire to free a Swedish citizen. Two retired ambassadors gave testimony on her behalf, saying that ambassadors have wide latitude to act and are not obligated to report everything to the Foreign Ministry. She was also supported by twenty-one former Swedish diplomats, who earlier this year wrote a defense of Ms. Lindstedt in Dagens Nyheter, a daily newspaper, arguing that she was availing herself of standard tools and powers at an ambassador’s disposal. “The description of the crime refers to completely different, traitorous situations associated with war and conflicts,” the former ambassadors wrote. The court agreed, saying the prosecution had not met any of the requirements to prove their case and finding Ms. Lindstedt not guilty on the official charge of “arbitrariness during negotiations with a foreign power.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/10/world/europe/sweden-ambassador-china.html) “The court did not see that the prosecutor has proved that the ambassador negotiated with anyone representing the Chinese state,” Judge Anna Flodin said during a news conference announcing the verdict. “The court found that had she done so, she would have been empowered to in her role as ambassador.” “I am pleased and relieved,” Ms. Lindstedt told Dagens Nyheter. “As a Swedish diplomat you have to turn every stone to free a citizen who is being held.”

Newsline: Sweden’s Ex-Ambassador to China Is Tried Over Secret Meetings on Detainee

A former Swedish ambassador to China went on trial in Stockholm, charged with overstepping the boundaries of her role by arranging what prosecutors said were secret back-room meetings over the fate of a detained Hong Kong bookseller who is a Swedish citizen. The charges against the diplomat, Anna Lindstedt, relate to meetings she arranged without government approval at a Stockholm hotel in January 2019, between the daughter of the bookseller, Gui Minhai, and two businessmen who prosecutors say were representing Chinese state interests. The daughter has described the experience as “threatening,” and Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs later said it had no knowledge of the meetings. (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/05/world/europe/trial-sweden-ambassador-china.html) Ms. Lindstedt is charged with “arbitrariness during negotiations with a foreign power,” an indictment that Hans Ihrman, the deputy chief public prosecutor at the national security unit, called “unprecedented in modern times.” Ms. Lindstedt had denied the charge, and did not want to make any statements outside court proceedings, according to Swedish public radio. Her trial is expected to run for eight days. Mr. Gui was one of five Hong Kong booksellers arrested by the Chinese authorities as they attempted to crack down on dissent in the Chinese territory and abroad. He was spirited away to China from Thailand in 2015 while at his vacation home, and accused by Chinese state news media outlets of publishing books that slurred Communist Party leaders. Months after he vanished, he appeared on Chinese state television and confessed to a deadly, drunken car crash more than a decade earlier. After two years in detention, he was released but was forced to remain in China. In 2018, he disappeared again in dramatic fashion — snatched from a train bound for Beijing while accompanied by two Swedish diplomats. Earlier this year, the Chinese authorities said he had been sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of providing intelligence overseas.

Newsline: Philippine Embassy in Sweden Reopens After 8 Years

The Philippine Embassy in Sweden has reopened after being closed for eight years, the Filipino Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced recently, noting that the same embassy will offer its services for all Filipinos in Finland as well, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports. “The reopening of the embassy, which also has jurisdiction over Finland, is the result of the efforts of the landing team, which arrived in Sweden in late 2019,” the statement reads. (https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/news/philippine-embassy-in-sweden-reopens-after-8-years/) The Consul General and Officer-in-Charge Raul Dado will lead the team at the reopened embassy. He previously served as consul general at the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait. Due to “economic constraints”, the Philippine Embassy in Sweden was closed in 2012. After the embassy stopped its services, the Philippines was represented by Honorary Consul General to Stockholm Erik Belfrage.

Newsline: Sweden ambassador to the US says herd immunity may be reached by May

Sweden’s ambassador to the United States has said the capital of the Nordic country could reach herd immunity by May – a result of a controversial response to the coronavirus pandemic involving few public restrictions. “About 30 percent of people in Stockholm have reached a level of immunity,” Karin Ulrika Olofsdotter told National Public Radio (NPR).To date, close to three million people have been infected by the new coronavirus, which has caused more than 206,000 deaths worldwide. “We could reach herd immunity in the capital as early as next month,” Olofsdotter said in the interview. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/sweden-ambassador-stockholm-reach-herd-immunity-200427072044548.html) So-called herd immunity occurs when a large enough percentage of a population becomes immune to a virus, either through infection or vaccination, thus preventing further spread throughout the group. While that percentage changes based on the pathogen, the United Kingdom’s chief scientific adviser has said models indicate about 60 percent of a given community would need to be immune to reach herd immunity for the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

Newsline: Sweden summons Chinese ambassador over criticism of country and media

Sweden’s foreign ministry has summoned the Chinese ambassador for talks over his repeated criticism of the Scandinavian nation and alleged intimidation of the Swedish media. Relations between Sweden and China have been strained for several years over Beijing’s detention of Chinese-born Swedish citizen Gui Minhai, who published gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders out of a Hong Kong book shop. A foreign ministry spokeswoman on Tuesday refused to disclose the specific issues that would be raised. Chinese ambassador Gui Congyou in November threatened “counter-measures” after the culture minister awarded a Swedish rights prize to Gui Minhai. Two business delegations to Stockholm were subsequently cancelled. In an interview at the weekend on Swedish television SVT, he said of Sweden’s critical media coverage of China: “It’s like a 48-kilo lightweight boxer picking a fight with an 86-kilo heavyweight boxer, and the 86-kilo boxer out of courtesy and goodwill tells the 48-kilo boxer to mind his own business.” (https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/01/22/sweden-summons-chinese-ambassador-criticism-country-media/) “But the lightweight boxer doesn’t listen, he continues to provoke and forces himself into the heavyweight boxer’s home. What choice does then this 86-kilo boxer have?” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde told SVT the ambassador’s remarks were “an unacceptable threat”.

Newsline: Former Swedish Ambassador to China to Stand Trial

Sweden’s former ambassador to China will stand trial for diplomatic misconduct after she tried to make a deal with Beijing leading to the release of Hong Kong-based bookseller Gui Minhai, who is currently detained in China. The decision came a day after hundreds of thousands of protesters once more flooded the streets of Hong Kong in a peaceful protest on Dec. 8 against the erosion of their traditional freedoms under Chinese rule, and to mark Human Rights Day, six months after the pro-democracy movement began. Anna Lindstedt has been charged by Swedish prosecutors with “arbitrariness during negotiations with a foreign power,” specifically linked to a meeting during which she was “in contact with persons representing the interests of the Chinese State.” (https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/trial-12102019125314.html) Sweden’s foreign ministry recalled Lindstedt in February after she was accused of holding a meeting with Angela Gui, Gui’s daughter, without official authorization.

Newsline: Russia expels two Swedish diplomats

Russia has expelled two Swedish diplomats from Moscow as part of a reciprocal move against Stockholm, Sweden said on May 8. Relations between the two countries have been strained in the last few years over Russia’s actions in Ukraine and sabre-rattling in the Baltic. “Sweden has previously made the decision that one Russian diplomat would not have his visa renewed and following that, we have declined Russian applications for diplomatic visas,” a Swedish foreign ministry spokeswoman said. “Russia has answered by asking two Swedish diplomats to leave Russia.” The spokeswoman declined to give further details. (https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-russia-sweden-diplomats-idUKKCN1SE1SZ) The ministry said in December that Moscow had asked one of its diplomats to leave Russia after Stockholm rejected two Russian applications for diplomatic visas. Asked in Moscow whether the Kremlin had expelled two Swedish diplomats in response to Stockholm’s visa rejection, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the question did “not require us to comment”. “Without getting into details, I can say that the answer is contained in the question,” TASS news agency quoted her as saying. “I am talking about the phrase ‘in response’,” she said, declining to provide further details.

Newsline: Swedish ambassador to China investigated for security breaches

Swedish authorities said that the country’s ambassador to China was under criminal investigation for breaching national security, after she was called back to Stockholm amid reports of her role in arranging unauthorised meetings about the case of detained bookseller Gui Minhai. 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. Lindstedt was embroiled in a political storm after Angela Gui, the daughter of Swedish book publisher Gui Minhai, wrote in a public post on Medium on February 13 that the Swedish ambassador was involved in arranging an unauthorised meeting between her and unidentified Chinese businessmen. (https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3002569/swedish-ambassador-china-investigated-security-breaches-gui) The Swedish embassy in Beijing declined to comment on Lindstedt’s case on Wednesday, saying that the investigation was active. The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Swedish Police Authority also declined to comment. Gui Minhai, a Chinese-born naturalised Swedish citizen, was one of five Hong Kong-based booksellers who disappeared in late 2015 but resurfaced later in mainland China. The affair saw the associates, all from the Causeway Bay Bookstore and Mighty Current Publishing House – which published salacious books about the lives of past and current Chinese leaders – vanish from Thailand, Hong Kong and mainland China. It was later revealed that all five were investigated for their alleged “illegal business” of selling banned books through underground channels to buyers on the mainland. Gui, owner of the bookstore and publishing house, was released in October 2017 after serving a two-year sentence for a drink-driving offence from 2003. He was arrested again three months later on a train to Beijing, when he was accompanied by two Swedish diplomats, on charges of leaking state secrets abroad. Sweden has condemned the way Beijing has handled Gui’s case, and demanded that the bookseller be released and reunited with his family immediately. China, however, has insisted that it has handled the case “in accordance with the law”.

Newsline: Swedish foreign ministry investigates ambassador to China

Sweden’s ambassador to China is under internal investigation, the embassy said Thursday, after she set up meetings between the daughter of a detained Swedish publisher and two businessmen that appeared to have gone awry. Ambassador Anna Lindstedt returned to Stockholm on Wednesday to meet with officials from the foreign affairs ministry, the Swedish Embassy in Beijing said by phone. Lindstedt is not under criminal investigation. The embassy declined to give further details, but the ministry confirmed that Lindstedt’s departure was related to meetings she arranged between Angela Gui, the daughter of detained Swedish book publisher Gui Minhai, and the two businessmen. “The ambassador has acted incorrectly in the sense that the foreign ministry had no knowledge that the meetings took place,” spokeswoman Catherine Johnsson told The Associated Press (https://www.kentucky.com/news/business/article226252170.html). She said the internal investigation was aimed at getting “an overall picture of what has happened,” and that “as far as the action of the ambassador is concerned, we must wait for what the inquiry will come up with.”