Chinese embassy rejects second Swedish apology for satire on tourists

Programme manager’s blog offering ‘sincere apology’ and saying video was intended to be anti-racist ‘lacks sincerity and is perfunctory’, claims embassy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 1:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 10:45pm

China’s embassy in Stockholm has rejected a second apology for a Swedish television programme’s portrayal of Chinese tourists, calling it an “insincere” response as it continued its attacks on the European country over three Chinese people being ejected from a hostel four weeks ago.

The apology appeared in a blog post on Wednesday by a programme manager for Sweden’s national broadcaster Sveriges Television (SVT). The post addressed imagery aired on Friday in a satirical video listing dos and don’ts for Chinese tourists, which the Chinese embassy described as racist.

But the embassy said on Thursday the statement from programme manager Thomas Hall was “insincere and hypocritical”.

The Swedish Foreign Affairs Ministry said on Monday that there was freedom of expression in Sweden and that it had no further comment.

Hall’s satirical programme, Svenska Nyheter, had lampooned the case of a man, Zeng, and his parents, who were removed from the Generator Stockholm hostel on September 2 after arriving a day early for their reservation.

They were told they could not wait in the lobby and, having refused to leave, had to be carried from the hostel by Swedish police. Footage of Zeng screaming at police officers outside the hostel was posted online, and was followed by a series of fiery statements from Gui Congyou, the Chinese ambassador to Sweden.

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In a media offensive in the days that followed, Gui claimed the tourists had been maltreated, accused Sweden of violating diplomatic protocol and arrogance, and warned Chinese people against visiting the country.

Swedish police met embassy staff last week and told Gui the Chinese family had not broken Swedish law, but neither had the police.

The satirical Svenska Nyheter video that followed featured signs discouraging Chinese tourists – represented in farmer’s hats – from defecating on the streets, and advised them not to mistake pet dogs for lunch.

Hall has since made two public statements about the sketch, both of which have been rejected by the embassy.

He said in his blog post, on SVT’s website on Wednesday, that the video was intended to be anti-racist and point out a “blind spot” in Sweden, “where racist expressions of Chinese are for some reason often allowed to pass”.

Hall added that the programme makers had been “insensitive” as to how the sketch might be received, and said: “I would like to convey a sincere apology to the individuals who feel violated by our feature.”

His previous apology, on Monday, was for publishing the video on the popular Chinese video site Youku, calling it a “mistake” whose message was lost.

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The embassy’s statement on Thursday said Hall’s “so-called ‘apology’” failed to address racial discrimination against Chinese and ignored the programme’s use of a map of China in which Taiwan and parts of the Tibet region were missing.

“The apology lacks sincerity and is perfunctory,” the statement said. “We again strongly call on the TV station and programme staff to make a sincere apology to the Chinese people.”

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On Monday night, China’s digital warriors scaled the Great Firewall to descend upon the Facebook pages of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, SVT and the programme’s presenter Jesper Rönndahl.

Members of an online forum of people who spam those who “insult China” left thousands of negative comments on those pages. Behind the firewall, there were calls across Chinese social media for people to not travel to Sweden and to boycott Ikea, the Swedish furniture chain.

China-Sweden relations have been strained by China’s unhappiness over a recent visit to Sweden by the Dalai Lama – saying it opposes the Tibetan spiritual leader staging what it calls separatist activities – and by Beijing’s detention of Gui Minhai, a Chinese-born Swedish citizen and Hong Kong-based book publisher who was detained for a second time in China in January.