China has announced that it has released and expelled Swedish human rights worker Peter Dahlin, who was detained earlier this month and later shown on state TV “confessing” to breaking Chinese laws through his organization’s support of local lawyers.
Swedish embassy spokesperson Sebastian Magnusson confirmed the news earlier this morning that Dahlin had left China, but did not provide further details. He had spent more than 20 days in detention.
The 35-year-old activist and co-founder of the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (CUAWG) was the star of a Xinhua report and 10-minute-long CCTV news segment last week in which he was shown “confessing” to engaging in activities that were “harmful to China.”
I violated Chinese law through my activities here, I’ve caused harm to the Chinese government, I’ve hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. I apologize sincerely for this and I regret that this ever happened.
Dahlin was detained at the Beijing airport early on the morning of January 4th as he was preparing to take a flight to Thailand. Initially, China’s Foreign Ministry denied awareness of the case, but later said that the Swedish national had been taking part in activities that had “endangered state security.”
In the news report, Dahlin said that he has been treated well during his detention with special attention paid to his “unique medical situation.” Dahlin has Addison’s disease, a hormonal disorder that requires daily medication.
The Guardian reports that Dahlin’s Chinese girlfriend, Pan Jinling, was also released from police custody, having disappeared at the same time as Dahlin in early January.
The abrupt release came as a surprise to many, but those watching recent developments believe that Dahlin had already served his purpose:
Detention and televised "confession" Swedish NGO worker was designed to set the stage for upcoming law on NGO. pic.twitter.com/JeXpLjJYJf
— Nicholas Bequelin 林伟 (@bequelin) January 25, 2016
Exactly. This case paves the way for the new NGO law which treats foreign NGOs as threats to national security. https://t.co/LbLG2AcNPw
— Emily Rauhala (@emilyrauhala) January 25, 2016
— Phelim Kine 林海 (@PhelimKine) January 25, 2016
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom welcomed Dahlin’s release, however she still expressed concern about another Swedish national in Chinese detention who had also recently made a televised confession.
Gui Minhai, one of the five missing Hong Kong booksellers, made a tearful confession last Sunday on CCTV saying that he had voluntarily returned to the Chinese mainland in order to stand trial for killing a college student while drunk driving more than a decade ago. Gui had been missing from his apartment in Thailand since last October.
During his confession, he made a special request to Swedish authorities:
Although I now hold the Swedish citizenship, deep down I still think of myself as a Chinese. My roots are in China. I hope the Swedish authorities would respect my personal choices, my rights and my privacy, and allow myself to deal with my own issues.
Last Monday, Swedish authorities responded to Gui’s televised confession by requesting to meet with the Swedish national and demanding more “openness” on the part of China. Then, on Friday, the Swedish embassy issued a statement saying that it was seeking clarification of the charges against Dahlin and Gui.
ICYMI, watch a news report on Dahlin’s confession here: