After more than 20 days of detention and a humiliating public confession that many believe was forced, a Swedish human rights activist who was working in Beijing has been expelled from the country, and is believed to be on his way home.
The Chinese foreign ministry and Swedish embassy in Beijing confirmed Peter Dahlin, 35, had been released from detention and expelled from the country on Monday (Jan. 25) evening. Chinese authorities said in a statement he was suspected of “funding criminal activities harmful to China’s national security” and would be expelled, the New York Times reports.
The Swedish embassy in Beijing sent this statement from foreign minister Margot Wallström to Quartz:
I welcome that Peter Dahlin has been released and can be reunited with his family in Sweden. This has come about following frequent contact between the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Chinese representatives.
Dahlin’s detention and subsequent treatment has raised serious international concerns about China’s commitment to the rule of law, as the US State Department said pointedly on Jan. 21.
Dahlin was picked up on his way to a Beijing airport earlier this month, and held for more than a week without his government being allowed to visit him. He appeared on Chinese state television, where he made a confession his colleagues believe was forced.
What Dahlin actually admitted to in his televised confession, and what a voice-over in Chinese said he had admitted to, were two very different things, as Quartz reported earlier. Discrepancies included his alleged “funding” of Chinese activists (Dahlin said “support” in his confession, which was in English), and an accusation that he had embezzled money from foreign NGOs, which Dahlin never admitted to.
His detention comes as China has been cracking down on human rights lawyers and activists. Over one weekend in July 2015, Chinese authorities netted more than 100 lawyers and human rights defenders across the country, including associates with the Beijing Fengrui law firm who later confessed to crimes on CCTV. Dahlin previously worked with one associate of Fengrui. More recently, several human rights activists and lawyers were charged with the serious crime of “subversion of state power,” which carries a life sentence.
Another Swedish citizen, Hong Kong-based bookseller Gui Minhai, remains in custody in Beijing after his suspected abduction from Thailand by Chinese authorities. Swedish officials are “very concerned about the detained Swedish citizen Gui Minhai. Our efforts to bring clarity to his situation and be granted the opportunity to visit him continue with unabated intensity,” the Swedish embassy said in its statement.