Yesterday it was reported in Swedish media that our King with short notice cancelled his upcoming China trip, that was supposed to take place between November 25 and December 1. According to national Swedish television (SVT), the decision was made due to ”complicated ongoing negotiations” over Gui Minhai, the Swedish publisher who have been imprisoned in China for over 1,100 days without a trial.
The news might be surprising or at least confusing to many readers, especially outside of Sweden. What is the relevance of the Swedish King visiting China? What role do the Swedish authorities play in this, and what does it mean for the fate of Gui Minhai? Let me try to provide a short analysis of the situation below. Let’s start with the King. His planned visit to China was always more than the usual symbolic and low-key affair often carried out by other royalties. To begin with, the Chinese embassy have long been working and lobbying for the Swedish King to visit China. Hence the visit would have won prestige for Gui Congyou, the new and ambitious Chinese ambassador to Sweden.
Furthermore, the King had several important meetings and events planned during his trip. Among others, he was scheduled to meet with Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, and Pony Ma of Tencent, one of China’s most important tech companies. The cancelled visit is a kick in the teeth for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in general, and for the ambassador in particular. So why did it happen?