Swedish NGO worker Peter Dahlin has been released by Chinese authorities after he was detained and paraded on state TV for running an “illegal organisation” and “encouraging the masses to oppose the government.” Dahlin, co-founder of China Urgent Action Working Group, was released and deported on Monday, according to his colleague Michael Caster, who had been campaigning for his release.

The 35-year-old was detained three weeks ago and was later shown “confessing” on state-run CCTV where he apologised for “hurting the feelings of the Chinese people.”

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His girlfriend Pan Jinling – a Chinese national – was also released, according to Dahlin’s colleague Michael Caster.

Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Asia Nicholas Bequelin welcomed the news but said on Twitter than Dahlin’s detention was “designed to set the stage for upcoming law on NGOs.”

If China passes its Foreign Non Governmental Organisations Management Law, foreign NGOs would face funding restrictions and each would require an official sponsor and lengthy annual work plans. The new rules would also allow authorities to detain foreign NGO staff without charge for up to 15 days.

‘An escalation’ 

Before his release, Executive Director of US-based NGO Human Rights in China Sharon Hom told HKFP that Dahlin’s detention was part of a wider attack on human rights law firms. 

“It represents an escalation of the campaign to demonise and criminalise foreign NGOs. By going after Peter Dahlin, the authorities are in fact implementing the Draft Foreign NGO Law, before it becomes law, whose core objective is to control all foreign NGO activities to achieve ‘social stability,” Hom said.

Peter Dahlin
Peter Dahlin. Photo: Michael Caster.

The case is the latest in a series of EU-related detentions in China. Three EU citizens, including Dahlin and Hong Kong book publishers Gui Minhai and Lee Bo, have been detained by the mainland authorities in recent months. The missing booksellers case has raised concern among the European Union, Swedish and British governments, who have called upon China to disclose more information.

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.