Swede in plea for China colleagues

This undated photo at an undisclosed location provided to AFP by the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group shows Swedish human rights activist Peter Dahlin. Chinese state media on 19 January 2016 accused Peter Dahlin, detained amid a crackdown on outspoken lawyers, of inciting opposition to the government, publishing a confession from a detained colleagueImage copyright
AFP/Getty Images

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Peter Dahlin was detained amid a wider crackdown on lawyers and rights activists

A Swedish rights activist, released after being held in China on charges of damaging national security, has called for his colleagues to be freed.

After arriving back in Sweden, Peter Dahlin made the plea on national radio.

The 35-year-old was detained in early January amid a crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists.

Last week he appeared on state media apparently confessing to breaking the law through his organisation’s support of local Chinese rights lawyers.

His organisation, Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action), called the report “absurd” and said the confession appeared to have been forced.

Speaking on Swedish Radio on Tuesday, Mr Dahlin thanked Swedish diplomats for their efforts to get him freed, but expressed concern for his colleagues still being held.

“I’m obviously quite happy to be back but three of my colleagues and close friends are still incarcerated without a quick solution in sight,” he said, without naming those he was referring to.

He stressed that he had been released on medical and diplomatic grounds, so the allegations against him remain and if he returned to China he could face trial.

Government campaign

Mr Dahlin is the co-founder of China Action, which describes itself as a legal aid organisation.

It provides assistance to uncertified “barefoot” lawyers who provide legal aid in rural areas, and provides direct help to disadvantaged groups and individuals who have experienced rights violations.

The group had said Mr Dahlin was detained on 4 January while en route to the airport for a flight to Thailand.

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Mr Dahlin was released after confessing on television to “clearly violating the law”

More than 280 lawyers, legal assistants and associates were detained in a seemingly orchestrated government campaign last year – most have since been freed, but others now face trial while the whereabouts of others are still unknown.

Such moves contradict China’s implementation of reforms explicitly aimed at strengthening the rule of law, say correspondents.

China Action’s US-based co-founder, Michael Caster, tweeted on Monday that Mr Dahlin’s Chinese girlfriend, Pan Jinling, was also no longer in detention “but… has not left the country”.


Earlier Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said she remained “greatly concerned” about the status of detained Swedish national Gui Minhai.

Mr Gui is one of five people linked to a Hong Kong publishing house to disappear in recent months. He vanished while on holiday in Thailand in October last year.

The case of the missing bookseller

Thousands rally over missing booksellers

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Swedish national Gui Minhai also appeared on state TV in China, saying he had turned himself in

He also appeared on Chinese TV earlier this month, saying he had voluntarily handed himself over to the authorities over a drink-driving fatality years ago.

The case has sparked protests in Hong Kong from those who believe they were kidnapped by China and are being held because of allegations in a book they were working on, critical of the mainland.

Ms Wallstrom said Sweden’s “efforts to get a clear picture of his situation and the possibility to visit him continue with undiminished force”.

Mystery disappearances in Hong Kong book world

Gui Minhai: 51, disappeared in Thailand in October 2015 only to appear on Chinese TV earlier this month apparently confessing to a hit-and-run incident in 2003. The China-born Swedish national owns the Mighty Current publishing house

Lui Bo: last seen in mainland China, just north of Hong Kong, in October 2015. General manager of Mighty Current

Cheung Jiping: 32, last seen in mainland China in October 2015. Mighty Current’s business manager

Lam Wingkei: 60, last seen in Hong Kong in October 2015. Manager of Causeway Bay bookstore

Lee Bo: 65 – also known as Paul Lee – disappeared in Hong Kong in late December 2015. A shareholder in Causeway Bay bookshop and a UK passport holder. Wife withdraws request for police to help find him in early 2016 saying he has been in contact from mainland China

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