China has called off two business delegation visits to Sweden, China’s ambassador to Stockholm said on Thursday, after Culture Minister Amanda Lind defied a Chinese threat of “counter-measures” by presenting a rights prize to dissident Gui Minhai.
Tensions between the two countries have been strained since Gui, who is known for publishing gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders out of a Hong Kong book shop, disappeared in 2015 before resurfacing in mainland China.
Earlier this month, Sweden’s former ambassador to Beijing Anna Lindstedt was accused of brokering an unauthorised meeting to try to get the Chinese-Swedish Gui freed. Lindstedt now faces trial and could face up to 10 years in jail if convicted.
China had threatened “counter-measures” before 55-year-old Gui was awarded the Swedish rights prize in November.
“As far as I know, two large delegations of businessmen who were planning to travel to Sweden have cancelled their trip,” China’s ambassador to Sweden Gui Congyou said.
In early December, Sweden’s foreign ministry said Beijing had postponed a visit to Stockholm planned for December 10 to discuss trade between the countries.
“China has no plans to return to this commission’s table at the moment. The ball is in the Swedish court. We are waiting,” the ambassador added.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said in November the country would not give into threats.
Gui Minhai disappeared from a vacation home in Thailand in 2015. Several months later, he appeared on Chinese state television confessing to a fatal drink driving accident from more than a decade earlier.
He served two years in prison but three months after his October 2017 release, he was again arrested while on a train to Beijing while travelling with Swedish diplomats.
His supporters and family have claimed his detainment is part of a political repression campaign orchestrated by Chinese authorities.
China is Sweden’s eighth-largest trading partner, behind the United Kingdom and ahead of France, according to the Swedish Institute for statistics.
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