How a dispute in a hostel became a diplomatic row between Sweden and China

Beijing demands an apology over ‘brutal abuse’ of three Chinese tourists by police in Stockholm

China Sweden hostel
(Image credit: Twitter)

A dispute between Chinese tourists and a hostel in Stockholm has turned into a diplomatic row between China and Sweden.

The Chinese government has urged Sweden to take seriously its concern over the removal by police of three Chinese citizens from a hotel in Stockholm, “after the incident sparked uproar on Chinese social media and an unusually strong response from Beijing”, says Reuters.

Police forcibly ejected the Zengs, a family of three, from a hotel in Stockholm in the early hours of the morning earlier this month after they arrived a day before their booking and were asked to leave, according to Chinese state media.

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The hostel's manager told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter that police were called following “verbal threats” made against staff.

According to Chinese press, police dropped the family off at Skogskyrkogarden in southern Stockholm, and were helped to reach the city centre by passersby.

Videos showing Swedish police carrying the older man out of the hotel were widely circulated on Chinese social media, gaining attention in the state press. In the footage, the family can be heard saying “this is killing” (in English) and ”save me” (in Chinese).

According to The Guardian Zeng told China’s Global Times he had asked the hostel to let his parents, who are elderly with health problems, stay until their room was available. The staff refused and called police to remove them.

“I broke down and lost my mind,” Zeng said. “I was not able to think whether it is was appropriate or not. I just wanted to denounce the police and seek help from pedestrians.”

The incident took place on 2 September, but “over the weekend the situation escalated as the Chinese Ambassador to Sweden, Gui Congyou, condemned the actions of Swedish police”, says Swedish news site The Local.

An embassy spokesperson said China was “deeply appalled and angered”, accusing police of having “severely endangered the life and violated the basic human rights of the Chinese citizens” and calling for action from the Swedish government.

The embassy also issued a warning to Chinese nationals, saying it was “highly concerned” about their safety and human rights in the Scandinavian country and that tourists should “strengthen security”.

The row comes as relations between the two nations are already strained. The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who Beijing considers a violent separatist, visited Sweden last week, and China continues to hold Gui Minhai, a Chinese-born Swedish citizen and book publisher, in custody.

Jojje Olsson, a Swedish journalist and author covering Southeast Asia, told The Local. He agreed with government sources, cited by Swedish media, that the hotel row was linked to “poor bilateral relations in general, and Sweden's request for Gui Minhai's release in particular”.

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