Satirical Swedish TV Show Making Fun of Chinese Adds Fuel to Fire after Tourist Row

After a controversial incident involving Chinese tourists in Stockholm, this time it is a Swedish TV show that is triggering waves of comments on Chinese social media for “insulting Chinese.” Diplomatic tensions between Beijing and Stockholm seem to rise as the Chinese embassy has published another safety alert for Chinese citizens in Sweden today.

A satirical Swedish TV show is accused of “insulting Chinese” by Chinese media and netizens for a sketch that was featured its most recent episode. (Youtube link here).

The sketch was themed around the topic of ‘welcoming Chinese people to Sweden,’ listing a number of do’s and don’ts for Chinese tourists in a satirical ‘information video’ that was published on Chinese video streaming site Youku. The video was accompanied by a dubbed voice speaking in Chinese.

“Welcome to Sweden”

In the video, “taking a poo outside of a historical place,” for example, is said to be a “no do” -referring back to Chinese tourists allegedly pooing in public (there’s a Chinese sign outside the Louvre Museum that forbids people from defecating). The host also says that Chinese tourists should not mistake pet dogs that are being walked in Sweden for lunch.

The Swedish TV show in question is called ‘Swedish News’ (Svenska Nyheter/瑞典新闻), and makes satire out of recent (political) news. The controversial episode was aired on Friday night, September 21st.

Another issue, one that particularly seemed to have struck a nerve among Chinese netizens, is that the show also calls Chinese people “racist,” and says that Sweden is a multicultural society that protects the rights of everybody – believing in the equality of everybody no matter where they are from -, “unless they come from China.”

The satirical comment makes fun of the idea that Swedes would supposedly be racist towards Chinese. The alleged “abuse” of a Chinese family in Stockholm and its aftermath generated a lot of negative news attention on Sweden over the past month.

The controversial incident involving Chinese tourists and Swedish police.

The Chinese embassy in Sweden even issued a safety alert, stating that recently, there are more cases where Chinese tourists have been victims of theft and robbery, as well as cases where victims were treated poorly by Swedish police.

Another particularly sensitive issue, is that the show featured a map of China that did not show Taiwan nor parts of Tibet. What makes matters ‘worse,’ as reported by Chinese media, is that the video was uploaded to a Chinese video streaming site. The segment featured in the show also had the ‘Youku’ watermark in it.

 

“A gross insult to and vicious attack on China and the Chinese people.”

 

On September 23, Chinese media outlet The Observer wrote about “the Swedish TV show that insults China” (“辱华的瑞典节目”), suggesting that the show depicts Chinese as racist, calling it a “defamation of Chinese people.”

The Chinese Embassy in Sweden strongly denounced the TV show’s contents on Saturday, September 22, for “maliciously attacking China and Chinese people,” publishing an official statement on their website.

The full statement is a follows:

In the evening of 21 September, the SVT broadcast a Swedish News program which outrageously insulted China. The program leader Jesper Rönndahl made comments that amount to a gross insult to and vicious attack on China and the Chinese people. We strongly condemn it, and have lodged a strong protest to SVT.

The SVT program and Jesper Rönndahl spread and advocate racism and xenophobia outright, and openly provoke and instigate racial hatred and confrontation targeting at China and some other ethnic groups. The program also referred to a wrong map of China where China’s Taiwan province and some part of the Tibet region were missing, which severely infringes on China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The program breaks the basic moral principles of mankind, and gravely challenges human conscience and is a serious violation of media professional ethics. To think that such things could happen in Sweden, an advocate of ethnic equality!

Relevant program staff from SVT argued that this is an entertainment program, an argument which is totally unacceptable and we firmly reject. We urge SVT and the program to immediately give an apology. We reserve the rights to take further actions.”

 

“This is low. It is making Sweden look bad.”

 

On social media site Sina Weibo, the hashtag “Swedish TV Show Insults China” (#瑞典辱华节目#) has over 20,5 million views at time of writing, and it is also included in the top 10 of most popular topics.

Many netizens write the TV show is “excessively hurtful” towards China. Although a majority of those who previously commented on the tourist row said that the Chinese family was at fault, a seeming majority now says on Weibo that it is unfair to stigmatize all of China over that one family row.

“This is low. It is making Sweden look bad,” one popular comment read.

“Sweden can no longer distinguish right from wrong,” another top comment said: “They take in many refugees as if they’re family, but these migrants have low basic morals and go vandalizing everywhere, but the Swedish government is too afraid to even fart [at them]; they’d rather go scolding Chinese to get some sense of existentialism.”

“They think worse of Chinese than they do of refugees,” one person replied.

 

“We remind Chinese citizens in Sweden to pay extra attention to their safety.”

 

Over the past month, the relations between China and Sweden have become somewhat strained. An overview of the incidents:

◙ September 12: The Dalai Lama visits Sweden.

◙ September 14-16: Sweden and China end up in a diplomatic row after three Chinese tourists are thrown out of a hostel in Stockholm after an argument over their check-in time. It is noteworthy that this incident happened on in early September, but only received massive attention in Chinese media in mid-September. State media denied the criticism had any connection to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Sweden.

◙ September 14: The Chinese Embassy in Sweden issues a safety alert stating that recently, there are more cases where Chinese tourists have been victims of theft and robbery, as well as cases where victims have been treated poorly by Swedish police.

◙ September 20: Official Chinese newspaper (or ‘Party tabloid’) Global Times publishes a column titled “Tolerant Chinese hotels”, which argues that Chinese hotels are “lenient and understanding”, and that “this good-hearted treatment isn’t the same for some Chinese tourists in Sweden who were violently thrown out of a hostel in the heart of the country’s metropolis.”

◙ September 21: The controversial Swedish satirical TV show airs, which allegedly “insults” China and Chinese people.

◙ September 22: The Swedish Migration Board decides to temporarily stop carrying out deportations of Uyghurs and other minorities back to China. According to InBeijing.se: “This also applies to cases were asylum have already been denied, such as the above mentioned family, who will not be forced to return to Xinjiang and the almost certain repression awaiting them there.” Also read about the earlier news on this insightful site involving the Uyghur family that risked deportation from Sweden.

◙ September 22: The Chinese Embassy in Sweden issues a statement denouncing the satirical Swedish TV show for “maliciously attacking” China.

◙ September 23: The Chinese Embassy in Stockholm issues another safety alert for Chinese in Sweden, warning Chinese to pay extra attention to their safety in China, saying: “We remind Chinese citizens in Sweden to pay attention to their safety. Since April of this year, we have received daily reports from Chinese about being robbed, having things stolen and losing documents, but the Swedish police so far have not investigated any cases. We cannot effectively guarantuee the legal rights of Chinese citizens [here].”

Note that the case of Gui Minhai (桂民海), a Chinese-born Swedish scholar and prolific book publisher who has been in custody or under close surveillance in mainland China for the past two years, also continues to be an important point of disagreement between China and Sweden.

After all controversy, some people on Weibo now write: “Just don’t go to Sweden.” Many others say: “I wouldn’t even want to go anymore.”

By Manya Koetse, Richard Barnes, Miranda Barnes

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