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

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

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