Ejection of Chinese Tourists in Sweden Sparks Outcry, Embarrassment

china-tourist2-091818.jpg A Chinese tourist cries after being removed from a hostel in Stockholm, Sweden, Sept. 2, 2018.
Screen grab from video

The ejection of three Chinese tourists from a guesthouse in the Swedish capital by police and Beijing's outraged response has whipped up a degree of nationalistic fervor on social media in recent days, although Chinese living in the country have expressed "embarrassment" over the behavior of the tourists and the government's subsequent protests.

Video footage of a Chinese tourist surnamed Zeng and his elderly parents being carried out of Stockholm's Generator Hostel after they showed up one day early for their booking and refused to leave have gone viral on China's tightly controlled internet.

According to state media, "Zeng's mother, 64, was taken in a police car with her hands behind her back, and police allegedly hit her in the vehicle when she 'was tired of the position and just moved her body a bit.'"

His father, 67, fainted when he was carried inside another police car, the strongly nationalist Global Times reported, adding that the trio were then driven to an area "close to a graveyard" in Stockholm.

Zeng and his parents had traveled from China to Europe in mid-August, and arrived at a hostel in Stockholm in early morning of Sept. 2, it said.

Beijing has called for a thorough investigation by Sweden of the incident, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Monday.

But he said Swedish police had yet to respond.

Stockholm police and prosecutors have said there is no case to investigate, as police were simply carrying out their duties.

'Very ashamed'

Meanwhile, a resident of Stockholm surnamed Liu said some Chinese living in Sweden were "very ashamed" of the tourists' behavior and their government's reaction.

"Oh no, not that; that was so embarrassing," Liu said. "How can Chinese people behave that way? This sort of bad behavior makes life very hard for Chinese people living overseas."

Liu denied reports that Stockholm police had "dumped" the three tourists in a graveyard dozens of kilometers away, saying they had been taken to a neighborhood where there was an overnight shelter for homeless refugees.

"That place is intended for refugees with nowhere to stay, and they can spend the night there," he said.

A Sweden-based tour guide for Chinese tour groups said she was shocked to see Beijing coming down on the side of what she implied were poorly behaved Chinese tourists.

"This was a very cheap youth hostel that has many links with tour guides, so everyone heard about it soon after it happened," she said. "It was so embarrassing."

"You should report that Chinese people living in Sweden have a problem [with the tourists' behavior]."

An initial investigation into the incident concluded that the Stockholm police had done nothing wrong, AP reported on Monday.

A Sweden-based translator surnamed Wang told RFA that privately owned establishments have the right to ask people to leave their premises.

"It doesn't matter whether it's a youth hostel or a restaurant. If they have a good reason to ask you to leave, and you don't leave, then you are infringing on other people's rights and trespassing on their property," Wang said.

"In that case, they will call the police and have them deal with it."

Politically motivated

Wang said she had never seen an instance of police brutality in 30 years of living in Sweden, and said the Chinese Communist Party's protests were likely politically motivated, following a visit to the country by exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sept. 12.

A security advice notice on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Stockholm warned that Chinese tourists had been subjected to attacks and muggings on a number of occasions, resulting in the loss of their property and a threat to their personal safety.

Chinese tourists had also been subjected to "rough treatment at the hands of public servants," it said.

Political analysts have identified Chinese tourism as one of the channels through which the administration of President Xi Jinping seeks to extend its influence around the world.

In March 2017, Seoul's deployment of a U.S. missile defense shield sparked anti-Korean protests and the closure of many stores in the South Korean convenience chain Lotte across the country.

Chinese travel agencies, which fly Chinese tourists into South Korea on mass vacations arranged by state-owned enterprises, then began boycotting the country as a destination.

Reported by Wong Siu-san and Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Shi Shan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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