The Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Chinese embassy in Sweden blasted a program by Sweden’s national broadcaster SVT on Saturday as xenophobic, for a satirical show it aired on three Chinese tourists who were ejected from a Stockholm hotel.

The satire news program Svenska Nyheter on Friday evening aired a show including a segment advising Chinese tourists on how to avoid cultural clashes. It advised them to avoid defecating outdoors or mistaking pet dogs for lunch. Its host Jesper Rönndahl also took aim at a family of tourists, who were removed from a hotel earlier this month after attempting to sleep in the lobby.

The spat led to China lodging a diplomatic complaint last week, accusing Swedish police of treating the tourists “brutally.”

SVT program
Svenska Nyheter presented by Jesper Rönndahl. Photo: SVT screenshot.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang strongly condemned the show in a statement on Monday.

“The (Svenska Nyheter) anchor’s remarks are full of discrimination, prejudice and provocation against China and other ethnic groups, completely deviating from professional media ethics,” he said.

The embassy also condemned the program as “outrageously” insulting, saying: “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.”

YouTube video

“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!”

They added that the program used a “wrong” map of China that excluded parts of Tibet Autonomous Region and Taiwan, which China claims as its territory.

The diplomatic mission said that they have lodged a protest with SVT and threatened to take further action if an apology is not issued “immediately.”

‘Openly Sinophobic’

Svenska Nyheter has also drawn ire from Chinese state-run publications, who published a series of editorials condemning the program.

A post by Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily on popular social media platform Weibo on Sunday hit out at SVT, saying: “This is not comedy, this is deception… there can be no compromise in matters of principle, defeat cannot be admitted in issues involving the national interest, and those who offend China must pay a price.”

YouTube video

China’s largest state-run news agency, Xinhua, also ran an editorial on Monday blasting the program as openly Sinophobic, adding: “The strong message of white supremacy, driven home by the coarsely-produced 90-second video Welcome to Sweden at the beginning of the talk show, laid bare how producers are mired in their racist beliefs. The program itself is the bitter fruit of such sentiments.”

The sketch has sparked an online debate between netizens, with one Weibo user writing: “What is even more shocking and irritating is that the government and people of this company not only have little condemnation of a program so full of racial discrimination towards Chinese people, but they also praise it!”

Weibo netizen reaction Swedish program
Photo: Weibo screenshot.

Another user wrote: “Sweden is a free and democratic country, it has the right to laugh at people in their own country… not to criticise those in other countries.”

‘A mistake’

SVT has since expressed regret for posting on the Chinese video site the short segment advising Chinese tourists on how to conduct themselves in public places. Thomas Hall, head of entertainment at SVT, told HKFP: “The purpose of the short segment published on Youku was to gather Chinese reactions. This was a mistake, as the entirety of our message and ambition was then lost.”

“We recognise that this may have been an insult, for which we are truly sorry.”

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.