Europe

Swedish TV satire on Chinese tourists sparks Beijing protest

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A satirical program on Swedish television has been panned by China who says its 'discriminatory'.

China complained to Sweden on Monday over a satirical news show on Swedish state television that advised Chinese tourists how to avoid culture clashes in a way that Beijing said insulted the Chinese people.

The satire program Svenska Nyheter (Swedish News), was aired a week after police removed three Chinese citizens from a Stockholm hotel which, local media reported, they had refused to leave although they were not booked to stay there.

The episode sparked uproar on Chinese social media and an unusually strong response from Beijing.

“The (Svenska Nyheter) anchor’s remarks are full of discrimination, prejudice and provocation against China and other ethnic groups, completely deviating from professional media ethics,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement on Monday. “We strongly condemn this.”

The Ministry said it and the Chinese Embassy in Stockholm had already made “solemn representations and strong protests” to the Swedish side from Beijing and Stockholm. 

In response, SVT entertainment chief Thomas Hall said: “I think it is so apparent that this is comedy, assuming that you know Swedish. But at the same time I understand that if you don’t know Swedish it is possible to misunderstand.”

It comes more than a week after China lodged a diplomatic complaint accusing Swedish police of treating Chinese tourists "brutally" after a family was roughly ejected from a Stockholm hotel.

The spat began earlier this month when the family of three -- a man and his elderly parents -- tried to sleep in a Stockholm hotel lobby after arriving early for their reservation, but the hotel's employees refused to allow them. 

Widely-shared video footage shows a Chinese man being carried out of a building by two police officers as someone in the background yells in protest. An older Chinese woman is seen sat on the ground outside next to her luggage.

The family claim police left them in the cold at a cemetery several kilometres (miles) away from the hotel. 

The incident escalated over the weekend, with both foreign ministries wading in.

 

The Chinese embassy in Sweden and foreign ministry "lodged representation with the Swedish side, urging the Swedish side to investigate this case, to respond promptly to the reasonable request of the Chinese tourists," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters at a regular press briefing on September 17.

His Swedish counterpart Patric Nilsson said Stockholm and Beijing are conducting a dialogue on "various aspects of our relationship".  

Swedish authorities on Monday said there was no police wrongdoing, calling it an "ordinary police procedure". 

The hotel's manager told Swedish daily Aftonbladet that the Zeng family had threatened staff, who then called the police.

Chinese media have also weighed in, with state-run CCTV calling the police action "appalling". 

"The rude treatment the foreign tourists got in a developed country that claimed to be civilised and a torchbearer of human rights is indeed shocking and unacceptable," it wrote in an editorial.  

The spat comes after the Dalai Lama's visit to Sweden last week. 

Seen as a thorn in China's side, the 83-year-old travels the world advocating peace and greater autonomy for Tibet. 

Relations between Beijing and Stockholm have also been tense following the detention of publisher Gui Minhai, a Chinese-born Swede who vanished into Chinese custody in January under murky circumstances.  

Asked if the recent escalation has to do with Gui's case, Geng said China's position on the case is "unchanged". 

Social media has been split over the fracas, with some calling on the family to reflect on their actions. 

"After the police arrived, as a fully-functioning person, how did you communicate that led to you and your elderly father getting carried out of the hotel?" wrote one user on the Twitter-like Weibo. 

- Additional reporting: AFP  

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