Swedish prosecutors on Wednesday charged a 49-year-old Chinese man with espionage for allegedly gathering intelligence on Tibetan refugees in Sweden and Norway for China.
The man, identified in the charge sheet as Dorjee Gyantsan, is accused of infiltrating the Tibetan community to pass information on their personal and political activities to Chinese officials in exchange for money.
His lawyer, Mikael Soderberg, told AFP his client — who faces up to four years in prison — denied all charges.
Dorjee acquired resident status as a refugee in Sweden in the early 2000s, and posed as a supporter of Tibetan independence, prosecutors said.
He also attended Tibetan anti-China protests in Norway, and covered a visit of the Dalai Lama to Norway as a reporter for the pro-Tibetan Voice of Tibet, in order to collect information on Tibetan refugees.
The espionage is believed to have taken place from July 2015 to February 2017, when he was arrested.
“This is a very serious crime. The espionage has affected very vulnerable people,” prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist told AFP.
“People who have fled to Sweden from totalitarian regimes must be able to feel safe and feel that they can exercise their constitutionally-protected freedom to protest against a regime without fear of persecution or attacks on themselves or their families.”
Some 130 Tibetans live in the Scandinavian country, according to the organisation Tibetan Community in Sweden.
Prosecutors believe Dorjee met repeatedly with a Chinese embassy secretary in Poland to pass on information, receiving thousands of dollars (euros) in exchange.
The suspect had also contacts with a person in Finland believed to be connected to the Chinese regime.
The meetings were held outside Sweden “to make it more difficult to uncover the operation”, the charge sheet said.
At the time of his arrest, Dorjee had just returned from a trip to Warsaw and was carrying $6,000 in cash, which prosecutors believe was payment for his information.
The prosecution’s evidence includes witness testimonies about his contacts with the Tibetan community, as well as the suspect’s phone and travel records.
Beijing says it “peacefully liberated” Tibet in 1951 and considers it an inseparable part of China.
Regimes often spy on refugees to find out who has fled the country, why, and where they are now — or to put pressure on family members who have stayed behind.
Correction 13.4.18: A previous version of the headline suggested Dorjee Gyantsan had been convicted, whereas he had been charged.