Swedish student Sven Englund, in a photo posted on his Facebook account.
A Swedish student’s study abroad semester at Fudan University has come to an abrupt halt after authorities revoked his residence permit for attempting to organise a “freedom flash mob” that was to have taken place on July 1, the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party.
24-year-old Sven Englund, a chemical engineering student from Uppsala University, posted three open letters written in Chinese to President Hu Jintao on a blog. In his first open letter, he questioned why China was called a “People’s Republic”, not a “Communist Republic”. In the second, he asked the President why the Chinese government was urging its people not to forget incidents like the Japanese massacre of Nanking, but made it difficult for them to find out the truth about events like the Cultural Revolution and the 1989 Tiananmen student uprisings. In the third and final open letter, Englund invited the President to a flash mob that he was organising on the Bund, where freedom-loving participants would gather for five minutes with the word “自由” (“freedom”) written visibly on their bodies.
On July 1, hours before the flash mob was scheduled to take place, Englund was picked up by national security officers and interrogated for several hours. The warrant that he was shown indicates that he was wanted for “causing harm to social management.” During the interrogation, the officers, he said, tried to coerce him into giving them the password to his blog, which he adamantly refused. Upon his release, Englund wrote a new entry to the blog, saying the flashmob was cancelled and that anyone who showed up would be responsible for their own safety.
In the meanwhile, Englund had his passport impounded, his residence permit revoked, and was given just a few days to pack up and leave. On Saturday, Englund departed from Shanghai and arrived yesterday in his hometown of Gotland.
Since touching down in Sweden, Englund has been besieged by the media. In an interview with Expressen, he described getting interrogated by Chinese security as an “interesting experience” and that he had no regrets for what he did. If given the chance, said Englund in a separate interview with Sveriges Radio, he would “do it all over again”.
On Twitter, Englund attracted several hundred new followers, most of whom appear to be Chinese sympathisers, overnight. He says in a recent tweet that officers told him he was “welcome back” in China some day, but remains unsure if he will ever be back. For the immediate future, Englund plans to write his graduation thesis in Taiwan.