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Swedish NGO worker expresses concern for colleagues in first interview since repatriation

Swedish human rights NGO worker Peter Dahlin, who made a televised “confession” on China’s CCTV last week, has returned home safely, but he expressed concerns for his colleagues and friends still detained in China.

In an interview with Sveriges Radio, Dahlin said: “I’m obviously quite happy to be back but three of my colleagues and close friends are still incarcerated without a quick solution in sight.”

Peter Dahlin

Peter Dahlin. Photo: Michael Caster.

Dahlin arrived in Sweden on Tuesday after being unexpectedly released on Monday. He said he was freed on “medical and diplomatic grounds” and he will face charges if he returns to China.

The Swede appeared on Chinese state television last week apologising for “causing harm to the Chinese government and hurting Chinese people’s feelings.” He “admitted” that the NGO he co-founded, China Urgent Action Working Group, financially supported human rights lawyers and activists. Chinese state media accused the NGO of “organising criminal activities which harmed China’s national security.”

While other foreign nationals have appeared on Chinese TV as crime suspects before, Dahlin was the first Caucasian to be featured in a televised confession. The incident made international headlines and sparked concern about Beijing’s increasingly aggressive crackdown on civil rights activists and organisations.

Dahlin’s Chinese partner was also detained. “My girlfriend is released and there are no more allegations against her,” Dahlin said.

The 35-year-old was the second Swedish citizen to be paraded on Chinese TV in a week. Gui Minhai, a China-born naturalised Swedish citizen who co-owns a publishing business in Hong Kong, also appeared on CCTV confessing to evading a two-year sentence over a drunk driving incident 13 years ago. He went missing in Thailand in October before suddenly appearing on Chinese TV. Four of his colleagues at his Hong Kong publishing company have also gone missing.

Dahlin said Swedish diplomats have “gone above and beyond” to secure his release. “I’m obviously very grateful to the people at the embassy that have worked on this matter.”

The Swedish foreign ministry did not respond to an earlier request for comment on Dahlin and Gui’s case.

Swedish NGO worker expresses concern for colleagues in first interview since repatriation