China urges Sweden to heed concern over tourists ejected from hotel

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Monday urged Sweden to take seriously its concern over the removal by police of three Chinese citizens from a hotel in Stockholm, after the incident sparked uproar on Chinese social media and an unusually strong response from Beijing.

Police forcibly ejected a Chinese man surnamed Zeng and his parents from a hotel in Stockholm in the early hours of Sept. 2 after they arrived a day before their booking and were asked to leave, according to Chinese state media.

China has lodged representations with Sweden about the incident and has asked for an immediate response to the complaint, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular briefing.

“We again urge Sweden to take China’s concerns seriously, and to take practical measures to protect the security and legitimate interests of Chinese tourists,” he said.

Sweden had not yet responded to China’s requests for an update on the investigation, which was not in accord with diplomatic convention, Geng added.

Swedish prosecutor Mats Ericsson told the Aftonbladet daily that no preliminary investigation had been initiated because “we made the assessment that no crime on the part of the police had been committed”.

A Swedish government source, who declined to be identified, said Sweden believed that China was exaggerating the incident because Sweden had spoken out over the case of a Swedish citizen detained in China.

“We think it’s related to Gui Minhai,” said the Swedish government source, referring to a Swedish, Hong Kong-based bookseller who has been held by Chinese authorities since 2015 after he was abducted in Thailand.

“Sweden and the EU have repeatedly called for his release and Chinese authorities don’t like that.”

An official newspaper of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, the People’s Daily Overseas Edition, earlier accused Sweden of hypocrisy.

“Some Western nations, including Sweden, always praise themselves for their human rights, freedom and equality. But when it comes to China’s people and issues, they seem to often show a different face, a different set of standards.”

A video clip of the tourists wailing and crying as they sat on the ground outside the hotel door has drawn mixed reactions from Chinese internet users.

Some blamed the Swedish police for mistreating the tourists, but many lambasted the travelers, saying their behavior was unseemly and embarrassing.

“I really find these types of people too infuriating. Could they please not make a spectacle of themselves and give the motherland some face?” said one user wrote on the Weibo social media platform.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd, Liangping Gao in Beijing and Johan Ahlander in Stockholm; Editing by Robert Birsel