Sweden’s former ambassador to China has been charged with “arbitrariness during negotiations with a foreign power,” over her involvement in a series of unauthorised meetings related to detained bookseller Gui Minhai.

Anna Lindstedt, Sweden’s former ambassador, led negotiations to release Gui in exchange for his daughter’s silence in January this year. Gui is currently imprisoned in China.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority said in a statement that Lindstedt was suspected of having acted outside the bounds of the authority granted to her, during a consular-related meeting involving Gui. The Authority said Lindstedt was in contact with people representing the interests of the Chinese state at the meeting.

Anna Lindstedt
Anna Lindstedt. Photo: Embassy of Sweden in China.

“An ambassador is the head of a public authority with a far-reaching mandate to represent Sweden; nonetheless, even ambassadors must adhere to certain guidelines and instructions issued by the Government Offices of Sweden and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. In this specific consular matter, she has exceeded her mandate and has therefore rendered herself criminally liable,” said Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor at the National Security Unit Hans Ihrman.

“A charge of arbitrariness during negotiations with a foreign power is unprecedented in modern times,” Ihrman added.

Under Section 4 of Chapter 19 of the Swedish Penal Code, offenders of the crime may face a maximum two-year jail sentence.

If the crime jeopardised Sweden’s right of self-determination or its peaceful relations with a foreign power, offenders may face a minimum of one year in jail and a maximum of six years.

The last time a Swedish diplomat was prosecuted for crimes against the security of the country was in 1794, according to national public television broadcaster SVT Nyheter.

The Authority said an investigation was launched on February 14, after the Swedish Security Service filed a criminal complaint.

gui minhai cctv
Gui Minhai. Photo: CGTN screenshot, via YouTube.

Angela Gui has been campaigning for the release of her father Gui Minhai, who was among five Hong Kong-based booksellers affiliated with Causeway Bay Books, which sold political gossip titles. He disappeared in late 2015, only to reappear in mainland China “confessing” on state TV.

He served two years in prison. But after he was released in October 2017, he was arrested again in January 2018 when he was travelling with Swedish diplomats on a train to Beijing to seek medical help.

In a lengthy blog post, Angela Gui said that Lindstedt contacted her in January to discuss “a new approach” to securing the release of her father and invited her to a meeting with two businessmen who alleged to have connections to the Chinese Communist Party.

Gui said that, when the group asked her to stop all media engagement, she refused, adding: “I’m not going to be quiet in exchange for a visa and an arbitrary promise that my father ‘might’ be released. Threats, verbal abuse, bribes, or flattery won’t change that.”

Angela Gui
Angela Gui. Photo: Sindre Deschington/Handout.

Lindstedt was Sweden’s ambassador to Beijing between 2016 to February 2019.

HKFP has reached out to Angela Gui for comment.

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Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.