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“This is Swedish Police!” – Sweden under Fire in China for “Brutal Abuse” of Chinese Tourists

Swedish police drag Chinese tourists out of hotel – some call them thugs, but others say it is the Chinese who were misbehaving.

Manya Koetse

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The maltreatment of a Chinese family in Stockholm earlier this month has ignited major discussions on Chinese social media, and has led to the Chinese Embassy in Sweden issuing a safety alert for Chinese tourists visiting the country. Many netizens are skeptical of the trending incident.

Over the past few days, an incident that took place in Sweden earlier this month has attracted major attention on Chinese social media.

Bystander videos going around Chinese social media show how a Chinese man is dragged out of a hotel by Swedish police, and later shows a woman and young man are crying on the street outside of a hotel (see embedded video below).

According to various Chinese news reports, the incident involves the Chinese family Zeng (曾), a younger man and his two senior parents, that was traveling to Sweden’s capital Stockholm on September 2nd.

When they arrived at their hotel, the Generator Stockholm hostel, it was not yet check-in time. The family suggested they would pay a fee to the hotel as long as they could wait in the lobby until they could check in to their hotel rooms. Zeng’s father reportedly is 67 years old and suffers from cardiovascular disease.

Sina News reports that the hotel refused the family’s request and even called the police to have the Chinese tourists removed from their lobby in the middle of the night, though both parents claimed they were feeling sick.

State media outlet ECNS writes that the police also denied the family’s request to stay at the hotel, and dragged his father out of the lobby and threw him to the ground outside.

The man later claimed on Chinese social media that his father consequently lost consciousness and that his body started twitching. Zeng and his parents were allegedly taken away from the hotel in a police car and were dropped off near a cemetery in the city’s suburbs.

The family then received help from bystanders in getting back to the city center, where they reported the incident to the Chinese embassy.

 

THE AFTERMATH

This has inevitably raised questions over Sweden’s ability to protect human rights and conduct law enforcement in a civilized manner.

 

Chinese media are greatly criticizing Swedish authorities for how they have handled the incident; both that night and during the aftermath. Swedish authorities did not respond to the issue for two weeks after it occurred.

On Friday, September 14, the Chinese Embassy in Sweden 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.

A day later, the Chinese Embassy in Sweden also issued a statement regarding the “brutal abuse of Chinese tourists by Swedish police,” writing:

Around midnight on 2 September, three Chinese tourists were brutally abused by the Swedish police. The Chinese Embassy in Sweden is deeply appalled and angered by what happened and strongly condemns the behavior of the Swedish police. The Embassy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China have made solemn representations to the Swedish government respectively in Stockholm and Beijing, stressing that what the police had done severely endangered the life and violated the basic human rights of the Chinese citizens. We urged the Swedish government to conduct thorough and immediate investigation, and respond to the Chinese citizens’ requests for punishment, apology and compensation in time. We cannot understand why the Swedish side has not given us any feedback. We hope that the Swedish side will handle the case in accordance with law, and urge the Swedish side again to take immediate actions to protect the safety and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens in Sweden.”

Swedish media first reported the incident on Saturday, September 15 (Aftonbladet). On Sunday, September 16, the Swedish Embassy finally responded to the issue.  A statement on their official Weibo account said that the Embassy is aware of the case and is assigning a special prosecutor to investigate the case and to determine whether or not the Swedish police have used improper violence. As clarified by a spokesperson of the Embassy of Sweden to What’s on Weibo: “The Embassy has not assigned the special prosecutor, as you can read in our statement. Instead, the prosecutor is assigned automatically every time an incident of alleged police misconduct is reported.”

According to a column on the website of English-language Chinese state broadcaster CGTN, the incident is now also one about a Swedish human rights protection:

(..) the way the local police in downtown Stockholm conducted themselves during the incident in a city hotel and on the streets on September 2 has inevitably raised questions over Sweden’s ability to protect human rights and conduct law enforcement in a civilized manner.”

 

SOCIAL MEDIA RESPONSES

Is this the police or the criminal underworld?

 

On Chinese social media, responses to the incident have been mixed. Many people feel that the family unnecessarily “made a big scene,” and condemn the young Mr. Zeng for “falling down on the ground as a crying baby.” They also say that these Chinese tourists are a “disgrace”: “They might as well have buried them at the graveyard,” some commenters write.

But there are also those who do not understand why the Swedish police handled the case in this way, taking the family in a police car and dropping them on a suburban curbside some six kilometers away, instead of bringing them to the police station or another hotel for the night.

“Perhaps the behavior of these three Chinese citizens was not very appropriate, but two of them are old people, they are not familiar with the area. To throw them out in the early morning, miles away at a cemetery where there are no hotels or stores, is really incorrect behavior by the Swedish police.”

From hotel lobby to suburban curbside; screenshot posted by Chinese netizens.

One well-known law blogger (@易辩任煜) wrote on Weibo: “It’s ok to enforce law and to bring people back to the police station and to give them a fine or something like that, but to throw them out like that? Is this the police or the criminal underworld?

There are also Chinese (micro-) bloggers who claim that the fact that this incident is making headlines in Chinese state media now relates to the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to Sweden, writing: “China just needs a reason to put pressure on them.”

“This is all about the visit of the Dalai Lama Sweden on the 12th,” many others claim.

By now, the hashtag “Chinese Tourists Maltreated by Swedish Police” (#中国游客遭瑞典警察粗暴对待#) has received more than 100 million views.

This is not the first time the maltreatment of Chinese tourists abroad receives mass attention in Chinese media. In January of 2016, pictures and a video of two Dutch boys emptying boxes of milk powder over Chinese tourists in Amsterdam also ignited major discussions.

The milkpowder incident.

In 2017, a video of a Chinese-looking man being dragged out of an overbooked United Airlines flight also went viral online in China, attracting tens of thousands of outraged posts on the discrimination of Chinese abroad. It later turned out that the passenger involved in the incident, now called the “United Express Flight 3411 Incident“, was not a Chinese citizen, but a 69-year-old Asian-American doctor from Kentucky.

About this incident, some Chinese social media users say that they think it will affect international relations between China and Sweden.

Update: since this original article was published on Sunday (Sept 16), this news item has made international headlines. For the latest developments and news facts in this matter check, for example, this Washington Post article.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Joachim Plahn-Andersson

    September 16, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    wow…china,the rest of the world is laughing at you….

    • Avatar

      Eric

      September 16, 2018 at 7:12 pm

      Really funny bro, I am laughing at how Donald Trump is manhandling the EU with a leash around its neck like a good little doggy.

  2. Avatar

    youstinkofwhitepoop

    September 17, 2018 at 12:55 am

    why would they go to a Europe anyway if they cant even speak the local language? he can barely speak English let alone Swedish. if you’re gonna go, then you make sure you have a local Swedish guide to meet you there or you go as part of a tour group for safety. you don’t just show up with two old folks if you can’t speak the local language, you’re asking for trouble.

    • Avatar

      World Traveler

      September 17, 2018 at 1:27 pm

      > why would they go to a Europe anyway if they cant even speak the local language?

      Please tell us, how many tourists going to Africa can speak the local Swahili language?

      What’s the percentage of tourists traveling in Japan are fluent in the Japanese language?

      Has there been a law requiring all tourists to India to speak and write in Hindi?

      Please answer. Thanks !

  3. Avatar

    Ingrid Lindquist

    September 17, 2018 at 7:55 am

    The place Skogskyrkogården is a metrostation 9 minutes drive from the center of Stockholm. They did not walk into the very beautiful cemetary close to the metro.
    It would have been better if the chinese tourists communicated with the police instead of rolling around on the ground yelling. You can see how puzzled the police are. Another solution is that Chinese Embassy could set up a telephone service line to contact so the police could drive them there if the tourists want so. For chinese tourist acting normal there is no problem but if you travel alone you must be able to communicate if you cant its better to travel in a group.

  4. Avatar

    Zoe

    September 17, 2018 at 8:03 am

    This article acts as though social media accounts are reputable sources…. They’re not. Most of this is just hear say

    • Avatar

      admin

      September 19, 2018 at 5:51 am

      What’s on Weibo reports on Chinese social media trends and news media. We clearly state where we used what sources.

  5. Avatar

    Matin Smith

    September 17, 2018 at 7:13 pm

    ugly chinese every where, they are obnoxious, dirty and greedy people

    • Avatar

      A.Person

      September 18, 2018 at 4:44 am

      Martin Smith what a sad and ignorant racist you are. I pity you.

    • Avatar

      Jerry

      September 27, 2018 at 2:45 am

      Please don’t make personal attacks. There are many police will help you in English, if you make trouble in China. So if the police can ask politely and gently, maybe it won’t be happened. (Advice from Chinese.)

  6. Avatar

    Michael

    September 19, 2018 at 5:14 am

    I would recommend updating this piece. As another commenter mentioned, a lot of hearsay seems to have been taken for fact. For some better reportage and details, I recommend http://inbeijing.se/bulletin/2018/09/17/all-the-details-you-need-on-the-chinese-tourists-who-were-brutality-handled-by-swedish-police/, which actually links to this piece. That article contains a lot of information, and video, that would be helpful in updating this article.

    • Avatar

      admin

      September 19, 2018 at 5:54 am

      We’ve updated briefly; since we first published this piece on Sunday, the case has now been widely covered in international media with the latest developments. Thanks for the link.

  7. Avatar

    NB

    September 19, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    you mistranslated the swe embassy statement…

    • Avatar

      Info@whatsonweibo.com

      September 20, 2018 at 4:43 am

      Please refresh the page. The translation has been changed on Wednesday, but the browser will cache the website. If you refresh the latest version appears. Regards, admin

  8. Avatar

    Mauricio

    September 22, 2018 at 12:05 am

    China is helping Maduro in Venezuela. I think that’s worse.

    • Avatar

      Clive

      September 24, 2018 at 8:35 am

      What does abuse of Chinese civilians have to do with the Chinese government’s relation with Venezuela?

  9. Avatar

    Alex

    October 2, 2018 at 5:54 am

    Yup. You guys were brutalized. Not being total assholes like you normally are. Please stay home.

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About Lipstick King’s Comeback and His ‘Mysterious’ Disappearance

After Li Jiaqi’s return to livestreaming, the ‘tank cake incident’ has become the elephant in the room on social media.

Manya Koetse

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Earlier this week, the return of China’s famous livestreamer Li Jiaqi, also known as the ‘Lipstick King’, became a hot topic on Chinese social media where his three-month ‘disappearance’ from the social commerce scene triggered online discussions.

He is known as Austin Li, Lipstick King, or Lipstick Brother, but most of all he is known as one of China’s most successful e-commerce livestreaming hosts.

After being offline for over 100 days, Li Jiaqi (李佳琦) finally came back and did a livestreaming session on September 20th, attracting over 60 million viewers and selling over $17 million in products.

The 30-year-old beauty influencer, a former L’Oreal beauty consultant, rose to fame in 2017 after he became a successful livestreamer focusing on lipstick and other beauty products.

Li broke several records during his live streaming career. In 2018, he broke the Guinness World Record for “the most lipstick applications in 30 seconds.” He once sold 15000 lipsticks in 5 minutes, and also managed to apply 380 different lipsticks in another seven-hour live stream session. Li made international headlines in 2021 when he sold $1.9 billion in goods during a 12-hour-long promotion livestream for Alibaba’s shopping festival.

But during a Taobao livestream on June 3rd of this year, something peculiar happened. After Li Jiaqi and his co-host introduced an interestingly shaped chocolate cake – which seemed to resemble a tank, – a male assistant in the back mentioned something about the sound of shooting coming from a tank (“坦克突突”).

Although Li Jiaqi and the others laughed about the comment, Li also seemed a bit unsure and the woman next to him then said: “Stay tuned for 23:00 to see if Li Jiaqi and I will still be in this position.”

The session then suddenly stopped, and at 23:38 that night Li wrote on Weibo that the channel was experiencing some “technical problems.”

But those “technical problems” lasted, and Li did not come back. His June 3rd post about the technical problems would be the last one on his Weibo account for the months to come.

The ‘cake tank incident’ (坦克蛋糕事件) occurred on the night before June 4, the 33rd anniversary of the violent crackdown of the Tiananmen student demonstrations. The iconic image of the so-called ‘tank man‘ blocking the tanks at Tiananmen has become world famous and is censored on China’s internet. The control of information flows is especially strict before and on June 4, making Li’s ‘tank cake incident’ all the more controversial.

But no official media nor the official Li Jiaqi accounts acknowledged the tank cake incident, and his absence remained unexplained. Meanwhile, there was a silent acknowledgment among netizens that the reason Li was not coming online anymore was related to the ‘tank cake incident.’

During Li’s long hiatus, fans flocked to his Weibo page where they left thousands of messages.

“I’m afraid people have been plotting against you,” many commenters wrote, suggesting that the cake was deliberately introduced by someone else during the livestream as a way to commemorate June 4.

Many fans also expressed their appreciation of Li, saying how watching his streams helped them cope with depression or cheered them up during hard times. “What would we do without you?” some wrote. Even after 80 days without Li Jiaqi’s livestreams, people still commented: “I am waiting for you every day.”

On September 21st, Li Jiaqi finally – and somewhat quietly – returned and some people said they were moved to see their lipstick hero return to the livestream scene.

Although many were overjoyed with Li’s return, it also triggered more conversations on why he had disappeared and what happened to him during the 3+ months of absence. “He talked about a sensitive topic,” one commenter said when a Weibo user asked about Li’s disappearance.

One self-media accountpublished a video titled “Li Jiaqi has returned.” The voiceover repeatedly asks why Li would have disappeared and even speculates about what might have caused it, without once mentioning the tank cake.

“This cracks me up,” one commenter wrote: “On the outside we all know what’s going on, on the inside there’s no information whatsoever.”

“It’s tacit mutual understanding,” some wrote. “It’s the elephant in the room,” others said.

Some people, however, did not care about discussing Li’s disappearance at all anymore and just expressed joy about seeing him again: “It’s like seeing a good friend after being apart for a long time.”

By Manya Koetse 

Elements in the featured image by @karishea and @kaffeebart.

 

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Backgrounder

More Than Just a Visit: Explaining the Chinese ‘Cuànfǎng’

‘Cuànfǎng’ became a popular word on Chinese social media and in official Chinese discourse this year. But what is it?

Jin Luo

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Since Pelosi’s stopover in Taiwan, the word ‘cuànfǎng’ has been all over Chinese social media to refer to this controversial visit. But ‘cuànfǎng’ is more than just ‘visiting’ alone. Jin Luo explains.

It was a sleepless night for many Chinese people when U.S. House Speaker Pelosi flew to Taiwan on August 2nd of 2022. A new Chinese word created in recent years, cuànfǎng (窜访) appeared in the official statement that was issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry at 11 pm that night, and subsequently it appeared all over social media.

Meanwhile, a pop song released more than 30 years ago titled “Tonight, Are You Coming or Not” (“今夜你会不会来”) suddenly became a Weibo hot topic before it was taken offline. What is this word lost in translation, and why did people suddenly get nostalgic over an old romantic song?

 
Cuànfǎng: A ‘Sneaky Visit’
 

Here is the original wording in Chinese and the official translation to English from the statement of the Chinese Foreign Ministry on the evening on 2 August:

In disregard of China’s strong opposition and diplomatic discontent, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited China’s Taiwan region” (“美国国会众议长佩洛西不顾中方强烈反对和严正交涉,窜访中国台湾地区.”) The word ‘visited’ in Chinese that is used here is “cuànfǎng” 窜访.

While the English verb “visit” is a neutral word by itself, the Chinese “cuànfǎng” 窜访 has much stronger connotations. According to the Wiktionary, the word is a derogatory, officialese way to say “to visit.” But it is not an easy word to translate, as there is no direct equivalent in English, and both the literal and implied meaning of the word need to be understood.

Cuànfǎng is actually a compound word: cuàn 窜 refers to fleeing, escaping, hiding, or running away; fǎng 访 refers to inquiring, seeking, or visiting.

Cuan as a compound character (Sohu).

To make matters more complicated, cuàn by itself is also a compound character. It is written as ‘竄’ in traditional Chinese: the top radical ‘穴’ means ‘hole,’ and the lower part is the character ‘鼠’ which means ‘mouse.’ The character, having the shape of a mouse hiding in a hole, therefore has the meaning of ‘hiding’ and ‘escaping.’

The origins of the character ‘cuan’ explained, image via Sohu.com.

The mouse or rat is an animal that is more often associated with negative things in Chinese culture. They are often considered sneaky, dirty, running around everywhere, and able to reproduce quickly. With mice so often carrying a negative association, cuàn ‘窜’ also refers to a kind of hiding and escaping that is negative or objectionable.

The second character fǎng 访 is a neutral word that simply means “to visit.”

At the New York Times, Chris Buckley captured the underlying meaning of this word in writing: “The Chinese word used in the official statements for ‘visit’ — cuanfang — connotes a sneaky or illicit encounter, not an aboveboard meeting.”

 
The Evolution of Cuànfǎng
 

Although it is a relatively new word, cuànfǎng already existed before the Pelosi incident and was not created in light of this controversial visit.

Since the word’s first appearance, translators have had some difficulties in properly translating the term into different languages.

Research papers in translation studies and international relations in China suggested that cuànfǎng is a “new derogatory term invented in recent years, specifically for the purpose of maintaining national security and unity, and condemning and exposing the national separatists” and “demonstrated the big wisdom of Chinese diplomatic discourse users; vividly described the image of the separatists, that they go on the run sneakily, just like thieves and mice” (source, in Chinese).

Other sources interpret it as “the unjust, improper visit conducted in order to reach hidden political agenda, to agitate and peddle the separatist ideas,” and:

1. You went somewhere where you were not supposed to go;
2. The visit was not accepted or welcomed by the (Chinese) government;
3. The purpose is to shake justice and create conflicts
” (source, in Chinese).

Cuàn was mainly meant to add an emotional aspect to the term and shows the contempt of the person who uses it.

Image via Wainao.

The word was first prominently used in Chinese official discourse when the Foreign Ministry in 2006 referred to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Israel. Since cuàn has the meaning of fleeing, it is especially suitable when referring to political dissidents who went into exile overseas.

Since then, it has been used again for further visits of the Dalai Lama to other countries (US 2014, Mongolia 2017), as well as for Rebiya Kadeer, Lee Teng-hui, Shinzo Abe, Joshua Wong, and others.

Although it is clear that the term is not only applied to Chinese dissidents, it is generally applied to those who conducted visits that were perceived to be hostile towards China, with Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit serving as a clear example.

Since the Dalai Lama has been living outside of China and conducted numerous visits to other countries, cuànfǎng was previously mostly used in this context until Pelosi’s visit, which ended up being good for more than 80% of the search results of cuànfǎng on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website.

If cuànfǎng is a word with such strong emotional connotations, why was it simply translated as “visit” in official English-language documents? Some say it is because of the mere difficulty to translate this word, while others say it is the routine sanitization of English translations by the Foreign Ministry.

David Gitter, president of the Center for Advanced China Research based in Washington D.C., said that the external goal of Beijing can be different from the internal goal towards the nationalist domestic audiences, and that “more accurate yet counterproductive translations … [often] breach normal diplomatic language.”

At this point, it remains up for debate whether this is a linguistic constraint or a political choice.

 
Tonight, Are You Coming or Not?
 

While the term cuànfǎng has been widely used in official discourse, it has also become a popular online word. Chinese netizens seemed to be as passionate as the Chinese Foreign Ministry – and perhaps even more so –  in condemning Pelosi’s Taiwan visit and demanding radical countermeasures.

Chinese netizens were watching the entire event unfold with mixed feelings – on the one hand, there was a strong sense of patriotism and anger, on the other hand, the massive attention to the event also turned it into something that was almost as exciting as a celebrity drama.

On that specific evening of Pelosi’s nearing arrival in Taipei, Chinese netizens were doing two things: watching real-time tracking of Pelosi’s flight, and listening to a classic pop song released in 1991 titled “Tonight, Are You Coming or Not” (今夜你会不会来) (video). Back in the previous century, Hong Kong singer Leon Lai expressed the emotions of someone waiting for his lover to arrive in this melodic song, singing:

“你是否愿意为我停留

Would you be willing to stay for me

今夜你来告诉我

Tonight, you tell me

你是否愿意陪我走过我的梦

Are you willing to accompany me through my dream?

我的所有

My everything

(Chorus)

今夜你会不会来

Tonight, are you coming or not?

你的爱还在不在

Is your love still there or not?

如果你的心已经离开

If your heart has left already

我宁愿没有未来

I would rather not have a future

今夜你会不会来

Tonight, are you coming or not?

你的爱还在不在

Is your love still there or not?

别让我所有的等待

Don’t let all my wait

变成一片空白

Go all in vain

 

In the middle of the uncertainty about whether Pelosi would come to Taiwan or not, this song served as entertainment for netizens and became a “collective carnival” of people jokingly applying the song to Pelosi, turning her into a ‘mysterious lover’ that might or might not show up. (Later, some were unable to play the song anymore, although it remains unclear if this was due to geographic restrictions or because the song was actually taken offline by censors.)

“Taiwan has been preparing for your cuànfǎng ‘sneaky visit’, are you coming or not tonight?” some netizens wrote, combining the title song with the cuànfǎng term. In doing so, Pelosi became both a ‘sneaky mouse’ and ‘mysterious lover’, both a target of condemnation and subject of fun and banter.

All jokes and cuànfǎng references aside, Pelosi did end up realizing that visit, and its aftermath, including a second Taiwan visit by a U.S. congressional delegation, has had a substantial impact on U.S.-China relations that were already strained before the move.

Will there be more cuànfǎng to Taiwan? It’s likely not an issue of if, but when. For next time, at least we’ve got cuànfǎng covered.

 

By Jin Luo 

Featured image by Alexa from Pixabay

 

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