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Sweden summons Chinese ambassador over snatching of bookseller

“It wasn’t like this a few years ago,” a Western diplomat anonymously complained to the Guardian as it reported on blowback to the snatching of Swedish citizen Gui Minhui 桂敏海 right under the noses of Swedish diplomats by about 10 plainclothes officers. “I think [Chinese authorities have] become overconfident and are overplaying their hand,” the diplomat continued, echoing what has quickly become conventional wisdom about China under Xi Jinping.

  • That confidence continued at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs press briefing, where spokeswoman Hua Chunying 华春莹 deflected “a barrage of questions” from foreign reporters over the abduction. Hua deferred giving details on the case to other bureaus, without specifying which one.
  • Hua also “insinuated that Swedish diplomats accompanying Gui Minhai when he was taken had broken some unspecified Chinese law or regulation,” Guardian reporter Tom Phillips tweeted.

  • If Swedish diplomats broke a law, they don’t seem to be aware of it. Sweden’s Foreign Ministry “has twice summoned the Chinese ambassador for meetings,” the New York Times reported (paywall), and has insisted in a statement that Gui’s escort was “entirely in accordance with fundamental international rules that entitle us to give our citizens consular support.” No further details on the case have been made available.
  • The nationalistic Global Times, in its typical fashion, snidely shot back that “The police will only inform individuals and institutions that are legally required to be notified, and are not obliged to please Western media.”

The confident moves to apply unspecified Chinese laws to current and former Chinese citizens extends overseas. This type of behavior is not new, and has caused friction in Canada, Australia, the United States and elsewhere for “more than 15 years,” the Globe and Mail says (paywall).

  • The most recent case is a former judge, Xie Weidong, who now lives in Toronto, Canada, and has been repeatedly harassed by former associates and family members to repatriate for unnamed crimes as part of a corruption investigation.
  • If it were Chinese officials doing the harassing, they would be clearly violating Canadian laws for foreign agent registration. But Chinese authorities are taking advantage of legal gray areas to seek justice as they see fit.
  • “I don’t care what your nationality is. Whether you are Chinese or Canadian, it makes no difference to us,” a local procurator in Hubei Province who has tried to get Xie Weidong to return told the Globe and Mail.
Lucas Niewenhuis

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company's newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.