Expelled Swedish NGO worker arrives home from Chinese detention

A Swedish NGO worker who was expelled from China arrived back home and was reunited with his family in Sweden on Tuesday.

Peter Dahlin was expelled after being detained for three weeks in China, suspected by the government in Beijing of endangering national security.

Dahlin told Swedish Radio he arrived early Tuesday.

"Since I have been in isolation, I know very little of what has been said or happened in the media or diplomatically," he said.

"It is apparent that the (Swedish) embassy in Beijing and the Foreign Ministry in Sweden have done excellent work, and gone above and beyond (their duty)," he said.

Dahlin, co-founder of the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group, was detained on January 3 as part of a police operation to "smash [an] illegal organization jeopardizing China's national security," the official Xinhua news agency previously reported.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Dahlin "was suspected of having funded a criminal project that jeopardized China's national security."

Dahlin's girlfriend, Chinese citizen Pan Jinling, had also gone missing around January 3, but has now been released.

"My girlfriend is released. There are no charges against her," he said.

"Unlike her, I am not completely freed but I was released on medical and diplomatic grounds," Dahlin told Swedish Radio.

Dahlin's father, Thomas, told Swedish news agency TT that his son "seems to be well" after his ordeal.

Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom welcomed his release and said  "this has taken place after contacts between Sweden and China."

Wallstrom said she remained "concerned" over the fate of another Swedish citizen, publisher Gui Minhai, who remains in detention, and that Sweden hopes to visit him "in the near future."

State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) aired footage of Dahlin last week, which his supporters have described as a "forced confession."

"I caused harm to the Chinese government. I have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people," Dahlin was shown saying.

Dahlin "was forced to give a confession on national TV," rights group Amnesty International said.

"We have no idea to what extent the authorities used torture or other forms of ill treatment on him and his girlfriend or former associates to extract his confession," Amnesty's China researcher William Nee told dpa. 

The Chinese Urgent Action Working Group had provided legal assistance to local activists and unregistered "barefoot lawyers" campaigning on issues such as forced demolitions.

Dahlin's expulsion comes amid an ongoing crackdown on the country's human rights activists and lawyers.

Since last summer, at least 316 human rights lawyers and activists from across China have been detained, summoned by police or have disappeared, according to the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group.

Of those detained, the majority have since been released, but some lawyers and non-lawyers were still being held in undisclosed locations, according to Amnesty.

Last update: Tue, 26/01/2016 - 14:22
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