Sweden defies China, chooses free speech

Swedish Culture and Democracy Minister Amanda Lind presenting the 2019 Svenska PEN’s Tucholsky Prize to detained Chinese-born Swedish scholar and bookseller Gui Minhai. 

DHARAMSALA, 16 Nov:  Sweden has defied Chinese threat by awarding detained Chinese-born Swedish scholar and bookseller Gui Minhai.

In spite of China’s threat of ‘countermeasures,’ resolutely opposing the felicitation and declaring any Swedish government representative attending the ceremony unwelcome in China, the Scandinavian country that ranks third on the 2019 world press freedom index choose to defend freedom of speech and went ahead with the award ceremony.

Swedish Culture and Democracy Minister Amanda Lind presented the Svenska PEN’s Tucholsky Prize to the writer now detained in China in Stockholm on Friday. 

Currently, in detention at an unknown location in China,  an empty chair symbolically represented him on the stage.

Gui Minhai was awarded the 2019 Tucholsky Prize, for his work in the service of free speech. 

“Those in power should never allow themselves to attack free artistic expression or freedom of speech,” media reports quoted the Swedish Culture and Democracy Minister as saying in her speech.

Meanwhile, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has reportedly said that Sweden will not back down to Chinese threat and intimidations.

“We are not going to give in to this type of threat. Never. We have freedom of expression in Sweden and that’s how it is, period,” the Prime Minister was quoted as saying in  Swedish Television

Gui, 55, is one of the five Hong Kong booksellers who mysteriously disappeared in 2015 and later appeared in mainland Chinese custody.

The man Beijing has described as a criminal and lie-fabricator was detained for publishing critical books on the personal lives of Communist Party leaders including Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.

Gui Minhai was previously awarded the 2017 Anna Politkovskaya Memorial Prize, a prize for free speech and press freedom for challenging the regime’s attempt to scare dissidents from expressing their opinion and standing up for freedom of speech in his native country.

Gui Minhai, the prolific author of Chinese politics and political figures has authored around 200 books during his ten-year career under the pen-name Ah Hai.

Named after German-Jewish journalistsatirist, and writer Kurt Tucholsky, Swedish PEN started awarding the prize that carries 1,50, 000 Swedish Krona (approx. 11,13,601 INR) grant annually since 1985 in memory of Kurt Tucholsky to a persecuted, threatened or exiled writer or publicist.

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