TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Swedish politicians are calling for the expulsion of the Chinese ambassador after he sent a series of threatening emails to a Swedish journalist, while netizens are mocking the embassy for unwittingly conceding that Taiwan is not a part of China.
Swedish journalist Jojje Olsson told Taiwan News that he has received four "threatening emails" this year from the Chinese embassy in Sweden over articles he has written that have been critical of Beijing's policies, particularly regarding Xinjiang. Olsson, a native Swedish speaker who is skilled in Mandarin and English, has carved out a niche for himself as one of the few Swedish journalists independently reporting on China in his native tongue.
The first email he received from the embassy on Jan. 8 was relatively terse:
"This is not your first attempt to smear China on media. It is hoped you will take off colored glasses, and start doing something that can help the Swedish public to get to know a real China and promote China-Sweden friendship, instead of racking the brain to throw mud on China and obstruct the mutual understanding between the two peoples."
On Jan. 12, he received a second email from the embassy in which it called on him to end his "baseless smears and attacks on China," but left the door open to "communication":
"We respect freedom of expression, and never tried to silence you. You are entitled to your opinions, but not facts, still less fabrications. It is hoped that you will stop baseless smears and attacks on China. Only those that respect others will be respected. Those that throw dirt on others will only get their own hands dirty. We are also entitled to responding to false claims, and we are willing to stay in communication with you."
After he had a Swedish television station republish an interview in which he discussed a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, he received a third, longer letter from the embassy in mid-March. The following is an excerpt:
"Every time when negative coverage of China is questioned within the Swedish media, or when China was reported objectively, people like Mr. Jojje Olsson would accuse them by using the concept “self-censorship”. It disrupts and hinders the further development of China-Sweden relations, and has also made everyone twitchy in the Swedish media industry.
In fact, the people including Mr. Olsson have established the real censorship system in Sweden called “Anything but China (ABC)”, where reports about China must avoid positive and objective descriptions, and report only the negative. Some people even fabricate groundless articles based on their own imaginations to smear China. Olsson polices reports on China in his own dictatorship of speech.
If the Swedish media respect freedom of press and speech, and do not censor themselves, why are there few letters from our Embassy published on Swedish media? Obviously, voices from China and voices promoting China-Sweden friendship have been censored by some individuals in the Swedish media.
It is hoped that the Swedish media will not be hijacked by "anti-China censorship" created by people like Mr. Olsson, shake off the shackle of dictatorship of expression in China-related reports, and truly report in an objective, fair and independent way."
After OIsson launched the new website Kinamedia in early April, the embassy sent the fourth and most confrontational email yet on April 9, accusing him of "colluding with Taiwan separatists, fabricating, fake news to smear China, making extreme anti-China comments, spreading disinformation to provoke anti-China sentiments and sabotaging China-Sweden friendship." In an apparent attempt to discredit his reporting on China, the embassy then said although Olsson claimed to be a "China expert," he had "not been in China for more than five years."
Olsson pointed out that because he has been in Taiwan since 2016, the period in which the embassy said he had been outside of China, it means that they "admit that Taiwan is not part of China." He said that they "tripped over themselves" when trying to spread propaganda.
Fourth letter sent to Olsson by Chinese embassy. (Jojje Olsson image)
Users of the social media site Reddit on Monday (April 12) poked fun at the embassy's snafu. Netizens listed the many ways in which the "Taiwan is part of China" myth quickly crumbles, such as the fact that Chinese embassies cannot issue visas for Taiwan and the fact that flights to Taiwan are in the international departures section of China's airports.
The letter then closed on an ominous note in which it called for Olsson to immediately halt his unflattering reports on China or "face the consequences of your own actions." After news of the latest email was posted in the Swedish newspaper Expressen, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde described the emails as "completely unacceptable," but that she did not believe the Chinese ambassador Gui Congyou (桂從友) should be deported.
In response to the emails, Christian Democrat foreign policy spokesman Lars Adaktusson, as well as members of the Sweden Democrats and Left Party, have called for Gui's deportation, reported euronews. Meanwhile, Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the Moderate Party, Sweden's largest opposition party, has suggested "targeted sanctions" as a possible response to the embassy's threats.
The furor over the emails has reached such a fever pitch in Sweden that Olsson has started to appear in political cartoons with Gui.
Den gryende supermaktens största skräck pic.twitter.com/z4amNb09Hi— Kluddniklas (@KluddNiklas) April 12, 2021