A Tibetan man charged last week in Sweden with spying on fellow exile Tibetans has denied the accusations against him in an exclusive interview with RFA’s Tibetan Service.
Dorjee Gyantsan, 49, who now faces a possible sentence of up to four years in prison, said that he has never spied for China.
“I have never passed any information about Tibetans to the Chinese embassy,” Gyantsan told RFA by phone on April 16.
Arrested on Feb. 26 last year on suspicion of “espionage against refugees in Sweden,” but later released, Gyantsan has now been charged with “serious unlawful intelligence activities against several individuals” in the country, the Swedish Security Service said in an April 11 statement.
Media reports cited Swedish state prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist as saying that Gyantsan, who has close ties with Sweden’s exile Tibetan community, had contacted Chinese officials in Poland and Finland, and had been paid 50,000 krona (U.S. $5,945) on one occasion, leading to his arrest last year.
Gyantsan said, however, that his contacts with a Chinese man later identified as an official in China’s embassy in Poland, and with a Chinese journalist in Sweden, were unconnected with intelligence work.
“I met the Chinese man from Warsaw while traveling together on a boat, and I met with him again a few times afterward,” Gyantsan said.
“He told me that he was a student at Warsaw University, so I was not even aware that he is a secretary at the Chinese embassy,” he said.
And though he was found in possession of almost $6,000 on a return trip to Sweden by boat, that money had come from his mother and was delivered to him by a Chinese businessman from Qinghai’s provincial capital Xining now doing business in Sweden, he said.
“It was not given to me by the Chinese man working at the embassy,” he said.
Gyantsan’s admitted contacts with a reporter for China’s China Daily newspaper were similarly innocent, he said, adding that he had first met the man at gatherings held by Sweden’s Tibetan exile community.
“He once saw me reading a message by [exiled Tibetan spiritual leader] His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Chinese, so he contacted me and we exchanged phone numbers,” he said.
“We met again later on several occasions, and he even invited me to meals that he paid for. But I’ve never given him any information about Tibetans,” he said.
Sweden’s Security Service has noted that unlawful intelligence activities targeting refugees is a method often used to prevent them from criticizing the regime of the country from which they have fled, and is also used by certain regimes in an attempt to gain control over people who have fled their countries.
Ethnic Uyghurs living in Sweden have also reported being pressured by China to spy on the exile community there.
In 2009, the government sentenced a Swedish national of Uyghur descent named Babur Mahsut to 16 months in prison for “aggravated illegal espionage activity” after he was found to have collected personal information about exiled Uyghurs—including details on their health, travel and political involvement—and passed the information on to agents from the Chinese intelligence service.
Reported by Tashi Wangchuk for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Benpa Topgyal. Written in English by Richard Finney.