There is no room for negotiation or discussion regarding the case of the 56-year-old Swedish-Chinese publisher Gui Minhai. At least not from the Chinese side.
The case has poisoned relations between the countries since Gui Minhai disappeared from a holiday in Thailand in October 2015 to appear on Chinese television three months later, in a performance where he was perceived as drugged.
The Chinese do not want to talk about the case.
But it will still be a topic when Expressen meets China’s Swedish Ambassador Gui Congyou for an interview about the strained Swedish-Chinese relations, his observations about Sweden since arriving in 2017, the quarrel over Huawei and the latest Chinese spy case in Sweden.
Gui Congyou has become known for his attacks, including on Swedish media. And teased many. The Moderates’ party leader Ulf Kristersson wants a Gui Minhai commission. The Left Party and the Christian Democrats have said they want to send the ambassador home to China and he is a standing “guest” at the Foreign Ministry.
The interview is located in Lidingö, where the Chinese embassy’s trade department is housed in a giant house from 1920. The place was chosen with care for corona reasons because the building houses a larger conference room where we can keep safety distances. Mouth protection is recommended.
I point out to the four from the embassy who are waiting for the ambassador’s arrival that the clock on the wall goes wrong, or rather that the hands do not move at all. Immediately two men arrive and look up at the clock and in fact that is the case. The ambassador is on his way, someone says and everyone starts moving in the room. Some go out quickly to be prepared to receive their chef.
Four Chinese write down each word
We then meet with the mouth guards on and take a seat on each side of the elongated conference table. Gui Congyou has put on a jacket pin with the Swedish and Chinese flags on the left jacket type, and the cufflinks are adorned with the emblem for three kronor which almost signals that he could be a Swedish diplomat.
The embassy has loaded with four people who take notes, of which the interpreter is one.
A common recurring phrase during the interview is that we should not interfere in China’s internal affairs.
I have the impression that you sometimes are very angry at Expressen.
– I can not say that I’m angry. I hope that Expressen can get to know China in a comprehensive and objective way and report on China’s real situation in the same way.
The ambassador is tight-lipped about the Swedish corona strategy, but he has taken note of the king’s statements.
– China never gets involved in other countries’ internal affairs, says Gui Congyou and adds that China is willing to give Sweden and a helping hand.
Iskalla the message about Gui Minhai
But no helping hand applies to the imprisoned Swedish-Chinese publisher Gui Minhai. He is sentenced to ten years in prison for having “special information to foreign powers”.
From the Swedish side, they are anxious for a solution, that he should be released.
– I have said that the Gui Minhai case is no longer a matter between China and Sweden. This topic is closed.
Why is it no longer a matter between China and Sweden?
– I have said that Gui Minhai is now a Chinese citizen. No one from Sweden is allowed to get involved. I think we can finish this topic.
Then I have to correct the ambassador. Gui Minhai is still a Swedish citizen. Swedish citizenship has not ended. I have checked this myself.
– Since 2018, Gui Minhai has voluntarily revoked his Chinese citizenship. Under Chinese law, you are not allowed to have dual citizenship. That is why he is a Chinese citizen. I do not want to comment on that anymore. I hope that the Swedish side does not fantasize about adding to China’s internal affairs, but instead does more to promote friendly relations between the countries.
What do I want to say to Gui Minhais? When can she hope that her father will be free?
– Who said I should talk to Gui Minhai’s daughter about this? This case is handled under Chinese law. No one may be added to.
I spoke yesterday with my daughter Angela Gui on the phone. She therefore wondered why she was denied contact with her father.
– She should ask herself, not me. Regarding this topic, you can continue to ask questions but I have no further comments.
“You should not add to”
From the Swedish side, Gui Minhai is still a matter. You say that it is a closed / closed case.
– From our side, we reject any attempt to add to our internal affairs, just as Sweden does not want anyone to interfere in their affairs.
Have you said this clearly to the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for example the Minister of Foreign Affairs?
– It is not possible to count how many times I have said it.
What do you say from the Swedish side?
– You can ask them that. You should not get involved in other matters. It is an international and common view.
When can you expect him to be released? When is he free to leave prison?
– It is an internal deal for China. It is Chinese law that applies. For those who can not stop talking about the case from the Swedish side, I hope that they can turn around and look at themselves actually.
The ambassador says he does not know anything about what is being played at the Sheraton Hotel in Stockholm in January last year, with the arranged meeting between Angela Gui and two businessmen, where Sweden’s then ambassador Anna Lindstedt was present.
He repeats several times that it is unprofitable to talk about the case.
– If you insist on taking up the Gui Minhai case, I have some advice. For all those in the media who want to escalate the case, they have nothing to gain, it only damages their own reputation.
But the Gui Minhai case poisons relations between China and Sweden.
– I want everyone, including those who work in the media, to do more to promote friendship and cooperation. Do less, or not at all, things that can hurt.
One of the “notes” at the table seems to be worried about the word “poisons”, breaks into Swedish and wonders what I mean. Probably a misunderstanding where he thought it was a real poisoning.
“They have not presented any evidence”
The ambassador’s latest dispute with Sweden concerns the expansion of the 5G network.
Chinese Huawei and ZTE have been excluded from participating in the 5G expansion in Sweden. It is an official decision. You have personally called on the Swedish government to change the decision and similar tone comes from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing.
– Both the Chinese side and Huawei have clarified their position on this issue. We hope that the Swedish side offers an open, fair, impartial, transparent and non-discriminatory business climate for Chinese companies in Sweden.
– The Swedish military and the Security Police as well as PTS have accused Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE of being a threat to network security in Sweden, but they have not presented any evidence.
Gui Congyou reiterates that Huawei has come up with a proposal for an agreement that would regulate that no damage could occur.
– But there has been no answer.
He urges the Swedish side to abandon as soon as possible what he believes is the totally unfounded conclusion that there could be a security threat from the Chinese side.
The Swedish government has said that it is a matter of authority. What happens if there is no change? Do you have a message for Prime Minister Stefan Löfven?
– We have a good communication channel with the Swedish government. We hope that the government will immediately change this decision instead of following the Trump administration’s unfounded crackdown on Chinese companies.
Gui Congyou has previously threatened that it could have consequences for Ericsson, for example, if Sweden does not release Huawei. Now he is more low-key with the threat.
– We hope we do not get to see it.
Gui Congyou on Chinese spies in Sweden
In recent days, there have been reports that people from the Chinese Communist Party have infiltrated companies operating in China. Ericsson and Ikea are among those alleged to have been exposed.
– It’s total nonsense. It is a vicious smear of relations between China and the countries concerned.
Who is behind the information?
-They come from some anti-China people who are constantly looking for problems.
During the two-hour interview, it is impossible to avoid the more tangible subject of Chinese espionage in Sweden. Several cases of refugee espionage have been revealed by Säpo. The latest concerns a Chinese citizen who during the period June 2015-February 2017 is accused of having mapped Tibetans in Sweden.
The now 52-year-old man was sentenced to prison for gross illegal intelligence activities and was deported a few months ago following a government decision.
Gui Congyou says he does not know anything about the man and the atmosphere is a bit depressed in the room.
– We do not know this person and what he has done. What he may have done has nothing to do with the Chinese government. I can say that China is not at all interested in spying in Sweden.
The call to Expressen’s reporter: Go to China
The security police believe that China belongs to the top three among the countries that spy in Sweden, along with Russia and Iran. But Gui Congyou denies that is the case.
Gui Congyou urges me to go to China. Then I can get to know the country for real and get a correct picture.
So what have he and his wife Jingli Song, 55, done for observations in Sweden? Well, that we are a training people.
– I am inspired by Swedish friends who train.
The image of Sweden can also change in several ways for Gui Congyou. He had read early on about how peaceful it is in Sweden, for example that it was possible to leave the front door unlocked. Now it’s a different climate.
– Can you explain that? Maybe you can explain the security aspects next time we meet.