Chinese family being kicked out of a Swedish hostel by police in the middle of the night has ignited an unusual diplomatic spat between China and Sweden, as well as controversy on Chinese social media.
At just after midnight on September 2nd, a Chinese man, surnamed Zeng, arrived with his parents, both in their sixties, at the popular Generator Stockholm hostel in Sweden’s capital. Problem was, the family had booked a room for the night of September 2nd and would not be allowed to check in until 2 pm that afternoon.
After being told that all of the rooms were fully booked for the night, the Zengs asked to be allowed to stay in the lobby in the meantime. While staff initially agreed to the request, they allegedly changed their tune when Zeng brought in another Chinese tourist from outside who was apparently in a similar situation. Staff then asked Zeng’s family to leave. The situation soon got heated.
When the family refused to leave, hostel staff called the police. In a video shared by Zeng, two female police officers can be seen carrying his father out of the hostel by his hands and knees. Meanwhile, Zeng shouts in English: “This is killing people! This is Sweden police!”
A video by the Swedish publication Aftonbladet which features footage supplied by an eyewitness offers a different perspective. In it, Zeng is seen suddenly collapsing to the sidewalk in tears in front of the two female officers, joining his mother and father on the ground, one wailing loudly, while the other is lying motionless. “Here, people are sick! Who can help him?” Zeng shouts while pointing to his father.
Writing on WeChat, Zeng claims that his father is in fragile health and nearly lost consciousness during the struggle. He claims that both of his parents were roughly handled by police, resulting in bruises:
After being loaded into a police car, Zeng says that his family was driven around for about an hour before they were all dumped off at a cemetery on the outskirts of Stockholm in the middle of the night. Zeng says that it was quite cold outside and that the family had to huddle together for warmth until they were picked up by a passing vehicle and taken back to the city about half an hour later.
“I could not imagine this happening in any modern country, especially Sweden, the hometown of the Nobel Prize,” Zeng told the state-run Global Times tabloid. “It is so sarcastic that they talk about human rights all the time.”
While Zeng immediately filed a complaint with the police and the Chinese embassy, the incident only really started to attract attention on Saturday when the embassy issued a statement, accusing Stockholm police of having “severely endangered the life and violated the basic human rights of the Chinese citizens.” The embassy called for a thorough investigation into the incident, along with an apology and compensation for the family.
The following day, China’s ambassador to Sweden, Gui Congyou, accused Swedish police of refusing to meet with him or embassy staff about the incident, asking if the Zengs had broken the law, then why was the embassy not informed?
On Monday, China’s foreign ministry joined the fray with spokesman Geng Shuang accusing Sweden of flouting diplomatic norms by ignoring the Chinese embassy’s requests for dialogue. The Stockholm police have said that they are currently carrying out an investigation into the matter. It remains unclear why they were apparently dropped off in front of a cemetery.
Since Saturday, the incident has become the hottest topic on Chinese social media with the Weibo page of Sweden’s tourism ministry being bombarded with angry comments. However, many Chinese web users are not on the Zengs’ side, lambasting the family and accusing them of being a bunch of shameless crybaby “pengci” practitioners.
“Pengci” is a Chinese word for those scammers in China who throw themselves in front of cars and fake injuries in order to hopefully earn some compensation money. Many couldn’t help but see similarities in the Zengs’ dramatic, tear-filled sidewalk performance in front of police.
In an interview with the Global Times on Monday, Zeng claimed that he and his parents were not faking or exaggerating their emotions. “I broke down and lost my mind. I wasn’t able to think if it was appropriate or not. I just wanted to condemn the police and get help from passersby,” he said.
The Zengs have since moved on to Holland and appear to be having a swell time.
[Images via Global Times]