Relations between China and Sweden are tanking because of a series of incidents that have led the Chinese to accuse the European nation of racism. This includes an incident involving potential mistreatment of Chinese tourists and a skit that was deemed insulting to the people of China.
The tourist scandal
Tensions between the two countries blew up after a video showing Chinese tourists being forcefully removed from a hotel went viral on the Internet. The video reportedly garnered more than 100 million views and triggered a heated debate in Chinese social media. Beijing communicated its displeasure at the incident and demanded a quick investigation.
The Telegraph quotes the Chinese embassy in Sweden as saying that it was “deeply appalled and angered by what happened and strongly condemns the behavior of the Swedish police,” while adding that the actions of the police “severely endangered the life and violated the basic human rights of the Chinese citizens.”
The incident took place in a hotel in Stockholm when a Chinese family decided to check in one night before their booking date. When the staff told them that the family would only be allowed in on their exact booking date, the family wanted to spend the night in the hotel’s lobby. The hotel staff objected and called in the police, who pulled them out from the hotel.
While many say that the police could have been considerate when removing the Chinese tourists, most people argue that the Swedish hotel staff had done nothing wrong. After all, one is supposed to only check in to a hotel on the date of booking. To visit the hotel one day before the schedule and demand that they be taken care of is obviously not right.
A few people point out that Beijing was rattled since the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader Dalai Lama had visited Sweden recently. And since the Chinese Communist Party sees the Dalai Lama as a hostile separatist, the government might be using the incident with the Chinese tourists to put pressure on Sweden.
“The Dalai Lama visits Sweden and the foreign ministry uses this incident as a pretext to make a fuss,” Independent quotes a user from the Chinese social media website Weibo. Meanwhile, Sweden issued an apology over the incident and has promised to investigate the matter to determine whether the police had done anything morally or legally wrong.
Sweden-China relations suffered another blow after a skit by a Swedish broadcaster was deemed insulting and racist by Chinese authorities. The satirical skit depicted Chinese tourists as dog eaters and open defecators, advising them not to defecate in front of historical monuments or view dogs as food to be eaten.
One part of the skit was uploaded to Chinese online video website Youku, sparking extreme protests from users. A spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs termed the skit as an attack on China and the people of the country, filled with provocations against the Chinese culture.
Though the Chinese embassy in Stockholm asked for an apology, the Swedish Foreign Ministry had declined to offer one by saying that freedom of expression applies. However, the broadcaster’s program manager, Thomas Hall, issued an apology through his personal blog.
“Our intention with last week’s much-discussed program was anti-racist. It was poking at a blind spot in Sweden where racist expressions about Chinese are often for some reason allowed to go unnoticed,” The New York Times quotes him.
Many people see the current crisis between China and Sweden as a fight between an emerging Asian power and a declining European power.