Sweden charges Tibetan resident with spying on fellow exiles for China

A picture of Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai, who remains in detention in China. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP

(theguardian)Sweden has charged a 49-year-old Tibetan man living in the country for spying on his fellow exiles for the Chinese government, according to Swedish media.

State prosecutors said the man, who is Tibetan and was working for the newspaper Voice of Tibet, is suspected of supplying the Chinese government with information about the families, housing situations and travel plans of “certain people of importance to the Chinese regime”.

According to Swedish state prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist, the man had been in touch with Chinese officials in Poland and Finland. He had been paid 50,000 krona (£5,850) on one occasion. Ljungqvist said the man had been deeply embedded in the Tibetan community.

“This is a very serious crime,” he told reporters. The prosecutor did not give the suspect’s name.

The arrest comes about two months after Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai was taken from a train in China in the presence of Swedish consular officials. Three weeks later a video surfaced in which Gui expressed his guilt over unspecified offences, an admission that human rights activists said was likely a forced confession.

He remains in detention. Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallström, has called China’s treatment of Gui “unacceptable”. Gui is reportedly suffered from a neurological disease, but has not been allowed to see a doctor.

Critics have said Sweden is not doing enough to stand up to Beijing over the Hong Kong-based publisher who released books on China’s political elite.

Sweden is home to about 140 Tibetan exiles, according to Tibetan Community in Sweden, an organisation for the group, which has come under increasing pressure. Last year, Sweden’s security service also arrested a man for spying on Tibetans in the country.

“It is clear that there are spies who are sent by China to Tibetan communities, but this is the first time it’s been officially investigated,” Jamyang Choedon of the Tibetan Community in Sweden told the Swedish paper, the Local.

Uighur exiles living in Sweden have previously described ways they have been pressured to spy on each other. A Uighur asylum seeker told Swedish radio in an interview in 2012 that Chinese police approached her family, still in Xinjiang, saying that she had been accused of leaking state secrets. If she assisted in providing information, her sentence would be lighter, she was told.

Tsering Tsomo, the executive director of the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Dharamsala, India, said Chinese consular officials will withhold visas for Tibetan exiles with family still in Tibet to persuade them to give information on others.

“They don’t want to provoke the Chinese government, so they do something they don’t like just to get the visa,” she said.

Tsomo said others are embedded by China’s United Front Work Department, the Chinese Communist party’s arm for issues related to overseas Chinese.

“It’s quite common knowledge in the Tibetan community the United Front is very active in planting spies within the Tibetan community. They could be Tibetan, Chinese … it could be anyone,” she said.

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