China joins row over tourists’ complaint of ill-treatment by Swedish police after hostel booking confusion

Foreign ministry, embassy in Stockholm make ‘solemn representations’ after man fails to make proper room reservation and is asked to leave

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 September, 2018, 9:38pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 September, 2018, 11:39pm

An incident involving a family of Chinese tourists who were refused permission to wait in the lobby of a Swedish hostel after arriving a day early has escalated into a diplomatic incident after the Chinese embassy in Stockholm issued a complaint to the local authorities.

The people at the centre of the dispute – a man and his parents – arrived at the Generator Stockholm hostel just after midnight on September 2, according to the son’s post on WeChat, the Chinese instant messaging platform.

As they were not allowed to check in until 2pm that day, the family asked if they could wait in the lobby, but staff refused and called the police, the social media post said.

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A receptionist at the hostel declined to comment on the specific incident but told the South China Morning Post that the building did not have a lounge for people to rest in, only a reception area.

The Chinese tourist, whose identity has not been verified – he used only the name “Zeng” online – did not respond to the Post’s request to join the WeChat group in which he made the comments.

On social media the tourist said he and his parents were forcibly removed by the police, despite his parents feeling sick.

He said also that he and his parents were driven away from the hotel in a police car and dropped off near a cemetery. A video accompanying the post appeared to show his father lying on a pavement with his wife sitting beside him, both of them crying, as two female police officers looked on.

Later the same day the tourist filed a complaint with the Stockholm police and at the Chinese embassy.

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Two weeks on from the incident, the embassy on Saturday issued a statement – attributed to Zhang Lei, the head of the consular section – accusing the police in Stockholm of mistreating the tourists.

It said the embassy was “deeply shocked and outraged” and “strongly condemns the conduct of the Swedish police”.

Both the mission and China’s foreign ministry have “made solemn representations” to the Swedish government demanding a thorough investigation, and a response to the tourists’ demands for an apology and compensation, the statement said.

The embassy said it had yet to receive a response from the Swedish government.

“We are deeply puzzled that Sweden’s government has not yet taken the initiative to give feedback to the Chinese government on this matter,” the statement said.

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A member of the embassy’s staff said the mission had spoken to Zeng on the telephone and social media.

The person said that Zeng realised he should have booked a room for the night of September 1, but was complaining about how the police handled the matter. The family left Sweden on September 2.

Stockholm police said in an emailed statement that they had “received notification regarding this situation” and that a “preliminary investigation will be led by prosecutors who will decide on future measures”.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority did not immediately reply to the Post’s emailed request for comment.