Free expression NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the Chinese Embassy in Sweden, saying that it made an “extremely violent” verbal attack against foreign reporters.
“The attitude of the Chinese embassy in Stockholm is yet another example of the complete lack of respect displayed by the Chinese authorities towards journalists…”Cédric Alviani, head of RSF’s East Asia bureau, said in a statement on Thursday.
It comes after the embassy said on Monday that the Beijing-based Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) was “an unregistered, illegal organisation and lacks all legitimacy.” It also took aim at Swedish journalist Jojje Olsson over an article published in the Swedish newspaper Expressen last month in which he criticised China for its reporting restrictions. Olsson was barred from entering China last year using visa restrictions.
The embassy said: “People with even just a little common sense and independent judgement have no difficulty in seeing that the articles he wrote about China are filled with false and exaggerated content intended to maliciously smear China.”
At a foreign ministry press conference in February, spokesperson Hua Chunying questioned the FCCC’s credibility after a report it published concluded that Beijing had intensified efforts to restrict and intimidate foreign journalists.
Gui Minhai case
Olsson lived in Beijing for nine years, but has had to cover China from Taiwan since 2016 after being denied a renewal of his business visa. He should have been working on a journalist visa, according to the embassy. However, Olsson told HKFP that he believed his work on detained China-born Swedish book publisher Gui Minhai was what prompted the government to take action against him.
“I was surprised at first, but when you think about it it’s not that surprising at all,” he told HKFP. “The Chinese government is getting more and more annoyed about the criticism about Gui Minhai and they want to control it.”
Olsson added that he believed the appointment of a new Chinese ambassador to Sweden last year – Gui Congyou – was related to the decision to ban him from the country.
“It is the first of its kind that a Chinese embassy attacks a foreign journalist, it has a lot to do with this ambassador and it’s something that might happen again in Sweden,” he told HKFP. “I think this is a statement not only to scare me but also other journalists and the media from reporting on [Gui Minhai].”
Gui has been under Chinese detention for 1,000 days, as of Friday.
China ranked 176 out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index, making it one of the most restrictive countries for foreign journalists to work in.
Beijing-based reporter Ursula Gauthier was expelled in 2015 after writing an article about Chinese leaders’ response to the Paris attacks that year, entitled “After the attacks, the solidarity of China is not without ulterior motives,” making her the first journalist to be kicked out since Al-Jazeera’s Melissa Chan in 2012, according to the FCCC.