China Expels Swede Accused of Jeopardizing State Security

  • Foreign minister still concerned about missing bookseller
  • Dahlin `confessed' to harming China in televised broadcast

China expelled the Swedish co-founder of a legal advocacy group detained this month in Beijing on charges of jeopardizing national security, Sweden’s Foreign Ministry said.

Peter Jesper Dahlin, who was detained Jan. 3, was shown on state television Jan. 19 admitting to illegal activities that hurt the Chinese government. Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margo Wallstrom said in a statement that Dahlin was released following frequent contact between the ministry and Chinese authorities.

Dahlin co-founded the China Urgent Action Working Group, which "works to strengthen Chinese rule of law by encouraging improved policy” by arranging assistance for rights defenders, according to its website. State news agency Xinhua reported Jan. 19 that Dahlin’s group hired and trained others to gather, fabricate and distort information and provided human rights reports to overseas organizations.

“The authorities made their point, spreading intimidation and fear throughout both the domestic and foreign legal and NGO worlds,” Jerome Cohen, a law professor at New York University who specializes in China’s legal system, wrote in a blog. “Now, having been widely condemned internally as well as externally, they ease the criticism by releasing the accused after what appears to be a reasonable, if secret, bargain.”

Televised confessions have become a common part of President Xi Jinping’s widening crackdown on challenges to one-party rule. Since July 9, 248 lawyers and rights activists have been targeted in China, with 23 still missing or in custody, and 12 formally arrested, according to Amnesty International.

Televised Confessions

Michael Caster, who worked with Dahlin at China Action, said Jan. 19 that his televised confession appeared suspect.

Police have worked with television studios and propaganda organizations to produce such videos, Jeremy Goldkorn, director of Danwei, a research firm that tracks Chinese media and Internet, wrote on the Asia Society’s ChinaFile blog.

“They are a form of punishment and ritual humiliation for the victims, and a powerful way for the party state to communicate which behaviors it finds unacceptable.” Goldkorn said. “That these public spectacles of shaming take place completely outside any reasonable definition of the rule of law does not seem to be of any interest to the authorities.”

Missing Author

Sweden is still concerned about a China-born Swedish citizen Gui Minhai who disappeared from Thailand in October and was shown on state television on Jan. 17 confessing to a 2004 fatal drunk-driving incident and asking Swedish authorities to respect his decision to turn himself in. Gui was known as an author of books critical of China’s leadership.

“I am very concerned about the detained Swedish citizen Gui Minhai,” Wallstrom said. “Our efforts to bring clarity to his situation and be granted the opportunity to visit him continue with unabated intensity.”

The disappearance of Gui came under greater scrutiny in December after his colleague, Lee Bo, vanished from a Hong Kong warehouse. While Hong Kong immigration service has no record of Lee leaving the city, he has since turned up on the mainland. Three other associates of Gui and Lee disappeared during visits to China last year.

Lee’s wife met him in a Chinese guest house on Jan. 23, Hong Kong police said in a statement. Lee gave his wife a letter addressed to Hong Kong police in which he said he was assisting Chinese authorities with an investigation and requesting that Hong Kong police drop their probe into his whereabouts.

In another case, Li Xin, a rights activist and journalist, disappeared from Thailand this month, the Guardian reported Jan. 22, citing his wife. Li was last seen boarding a train en route to Laos, the paper said.

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