Sweden’s former ambassador to Beijing could have committed a crime when she organised negotiations, unbeknownst to the foreign ministry, aimed at securing the release of detained Chinese-Swedish publisher Gui Minhai, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Sweden’s ambassador to Beijing from 2016 to early 2019, Anna Lindstedt is suspected of having overstepped her authority when she set up a meeting in Stockholm in late January between the publisher’s daughter and businessmen claiming to have connections to the Chinese Communist Party, without informing the ministry.
Gui Minhai, a Chinese-born Swedish citizen known for publishing gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders out of a Hong Kong book shop, disappeared while vacationing in Thailand in 2015 before resurfacing in mainland China.
Prosecutor Hans Ihrman told Swedish public radio Sveriges Radio that Lindstedt was under formal investigation of a crime.
Ihrman said she was suspected of “arbitrary conduct when negotiating with a foreign power,” meaning someone acting outside their mandate.
Contacted by AFP, Lindstedt’s lawyer was unavailable for comment Thursday.
The Swedish foreign ministry has said it knew nothing about the meeting nor that the ambassador was even in Stockholm at the time.
Gui Minhai disappeared from a vacation home in Thailand in 2015. Several months later he appeared on Chinese state television confessing to a fatal drunk driving accident from more than a decade earlier.
He served two years in prison, but three months after his October 2017 release he was again arrested while on a train to Beijing while travelling with Swedish diplomats.
His supporters and family have claimed his detainment is part of political repression campaign orchestrated by Chinese authorities.
Relations between Sweden and China have been strained for several years over the detention of Gui Minhai, 54.
His daughter Angela Gui, who has been actively campaigning for her father’s release, wrote in February on her blog that Lindstedt had invited her to Stockholm in January.
During discussions in the lounges of a fancy hotel in the Swedish capital, in the presence of the ambassador, she was introduced to Chinese businessmen who claimed they could help negotiate her father’s release.
In exchange, Angela Gui said she was told to “stop all media engagement”.
The Chinese embassy in Stockholm said in a statement Beijing has “has never authorized and will not authorize anyone to engage with Gui Minhai’s daughter”.
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