A Chinese national flag flutters on the Pearl River in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China. Picture: REUTERS
A Chinese national flag flutters on the Pearl River in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China. Picture: REUTERS

Stockholm — Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has urged China’s embassy in Stockholm to stop harassing Swedish journalists, accusing Beijing of trying to impose censorship outside its borders.

RSF intervened following the latest in a series of statements by the Chinese embassy there, this time attacking the news website of Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT.

China’s ambassador to Sweden, Gui Congyou, “has embarked on a ‘truth’ crusade against the country’s media since taking office in August 2017”, RSF said in its statement.

Since July 2018, the embassy has denounced multiple Swedish news outlets, including the country’s two main national dailies Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet and the news agency TT.

Regional dailies Upsala Nya Tidning and Nya Wermlands-Tidningen, and public sector weekly Dagens Samhalle have also come in for criticism.

“Diplomatic missions have no say in the editorial content of media in their host country,” Erik Halkjaer, the head of RSF Sweden said.

The embassy’s latest statement criticised the SVT website for publishing an opinion piece written by a representative to the Taipei mission on February 27, calling for support for Taiwanese democracy amid threats from China.

China and Taiwan split after a civil war in 1949, but Beijing still sees the self-ruling island as part of its territory, to be brought back into the fold. Beijing has stepped up diplomatic pressure on Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, as she has refused to acknowledge its “one China” policy.

Cedric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia bureau, said China’s attacks on Swedish media “reveal the unrestrained attitude with which Beijing is now trying to impose its censorship outside its borders”.

RSF recalled that China is the world's biggest jailer of journalists, with more than 60 detained, while Sweden ranked second in the RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

Ties between Sweden and China have been strained in recent years, following the detention of publisher Gui Minhai, a Chinese-born Swede who vanished into Chinese custody in January 2018 under murky circumstances.

China also lodged a diplomatic complaint in September 2018 accusing Swedish police of treating Chinese tourists “brutally” after a family was ejected from a Stockholm hotel.

Following that incident, a Swedish satirical current affairs programme on SVT poked fun at China, prompting Beijing to demand an apology and accusing it of racism.