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Ambassador Gui Congyou Gives Exclusive Interview with Expressen
2018/07/19

On 17 July 2018, Ambassador Gui Congyou gave an exclusive interview with Arne Lapidus, journalist of Expressen, at the Embassy. Following is the full text of the interview:

Gui Congyou: Welcome to the Embassy. Our embassy is open to all Swedish friends. Instead of an interview, I would like to see our meeting today as a frank and friendly conversation. Since taking office, I have talked extensively with friends from all sectors of the Swedish society, and they all wanted to know more about China.

However, certain Swedish media and journalists, with their bias, stereotype and hostility, described China as a country without any merit. The truth is that China is developing rapidly, the life of its people is improving and China is making increasing contribution to global peace and development.

As an old Chinese saying goes, "Listen to both sides and you will be enlightened; heed only one side and you will be benighted." It means that one can only reach a comprehensive and objective understanding of a subject after listening to all sides, whereas hearing from one side leads to a biased conclusion.

My colleagues and I, as ambassador, are willing to communicate with Swedish journalists and media, including Expressen. Some of you say that I am an ambassador with a mission. Indeed, all ambassadors from all countries have their missions.

My mission is to present Sweden to the Chinese people and China to the Swedish people in an objective, accurate and comprehensive manner, to promote friendly exchanges and cooperation between our two countries, and to build a bridge of friendship, communication and cooperation between our two peoples. That is exactly what my colleagues and I have been doing. I am encouraged by the outcomes of our efforts, and I am confident that friendly exchanges and cooperation between our two countries will be deepened.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. It is my honor to visit the Embassy. You mentioned many areas of friendship and cooperation between China and Sweden and that you are ready for open dialogue. However, recently you and the Embassy criticized the Swedish media. Do you think that helps open dialogue?

Gui Congyou: As I said, one of my main missions is to present China to the Swedish people in an objective, accurate and comprehensive manner. Most Swedish media and journalists are friendly toward China. They cover China's development and contribute to the friendship and cooperation between our two countries.

However, a small number of media and journalists are hostile to China. They see China as a country with no merit. It is not true at all. After our efforts to remind them have failed and for the friendship and cooperation between our two peoples, we have no choice but to point out their bias and hostility. We hope they will follow the professional ethics of journalists and stop viewing China through colored glasses. These efforts are to help these media and journalists to abide by journalistic ethics.

Q: My Impression is that the Embassy stepped up its media offensive since last Autumn. Why?

Gui Congyou: The main task of every ambassador of every country is to reach out to all sectors of the host country, including the media, to strengthen mutual understanding and cooperation through open dialogue. Since becoming Chinese Ambassador to Sweden, I talked to friends from all departments of the Swedish Government, Parliament, political parties, local governments, universities, and the business community. We discussed how to tap into the enormous potential of bilateral cooperation and facilitate the development of each other. Through talking with friends of the press, I found that though aspiration for friendship and cooperation is the norm, some certain media and journalists harbor prejudices against China. Despite significant progress achieved by China, we do not deny that some problems are yet to be resolved. To secure further development of the country and improvement of people's life, a lot more needs to be done. We welcome constructive suggestions and criticism from friends from Sweden and other countries, but firmly oppose the attempts, by certain media and journalists with hostility and bias against China, to undermine the friendship and cooperation between China and Sweden, as it is not in the fundamental interest of our two countries and peoples. We are obligated to point out their mistakes, and hope that they will join the team for friendship and cooperation between our two countries. This is our goodwill.

Q: You talked a lot about friendship and cooperation, but we noticed that you warned if Sweden keeps pressuring China over the Gui Minhai case, the two countries' relations might be affected. Do you believe what you said promoted friendship and cooperation? It sounds like a superpower pressuring a remote and small country.

Gui Congyou: I don't quite agree with you calling Sweden a remote and small country. Though the Swedish population of 10 million may not seem very big, its 450,000 km² of land is the 5th largest in Europe. More importantly, it is a great power in terms of industry, science and technology, innovation, national defense and diplomacy. Sweden and China are both firmly committed to protecting free trade and addressing climate change. As early as 1972, Sweden proposed the notion of sustainable development. It is the first and most successful country in carrying out green and environment-friendly development. In terms of quality of development, Sweden is no small country at all.

On the Gui Minhai case, we have been in close communication with friends from the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. We meet at least once every week to discuss how to properly handle the case. We positively consider the Swedish side's requests for consular access and a Swedish doctor's visit to him. Though Gui Minhai has stated publicly that he does not want to meet anyone from the Swedish side, considering the Swedish side's concerns, the Chinese officers are working to persuade him. I'd like to take this opportunity to give you an important update. We are working on a visa for the Swedish doctor, and we hope he will come to China as soon as possible. A certain Swedish journalist, without making efforts to learn about the close communication between the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and me, made irresponsible claims that China rejected a medical consultation by a Swedish doctor for Gui Minhai. These claims are totally inconsistent with the facts. I hope to pass the information to this journalist through you. He should stop making irresponsible claims and accusations before knowing the facts.

As for the case itself, I stressed many times when I talked to Swedish friends, that he committed serious crimes in both China and Sweden. How Sweden handles the serious crimes he committed in Sweden in the 1990s is up to Sweden, which we do not seek to interfere. But China is a country ruled by law and everyone is equal before the law. The crimes he committed in China must be dealt with under the Chinese law. It is natural for countries to have differences. But what is important is for the differences to be handled through friendly and equal-footed negotiations, instead of one side pointing fingers at the other. When some people try to pressure China to immediately release Gui Minhai, we cannot help but ask whether it is consistent with the principle of rule of law to have someone that committed such serious crimes released without trial. It is important that we deal with this case on the basis of mutual respect and equality and in accordance with the principle of rule of law. Such an approach will only improve the friendship and cooperation between our two countries, instead of damaging it.

Q: Gui Minhai has been jailed for more than 1,000 days and he was forced to make three confessions on TV. The Swedish Government said it was unacceptable. In this context, how can this case be dealt with appropriately?

Gui Congyou: Did Gui Minhai say he was forced to make confessions on TV? I have not heard of it. With a criminal like him, as long as the two countries handle the case based on the spirit of rule of law, there will not be any disputes. Chinese authorities have been investigating and dealing with his other crimes in China according to law. There is a strong concern of the Swedish Government to arrange a medical consultation for him, and we took it in consideration during the investigation process. The Chinese authorities will surely investigate and deal with the Gui Minhai case in accordance with Chinese law.

Q: Not only Swedish journalists criticize the media environment in China, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) also says that China's media environment is worsening every year. What do you think?

Gui Congyou: I have never heard of that. This year marks the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up. During the past 40 years, a large number of foreign journalists came to China to work. Their coverage helped the outside world to know about China, which is an important contribution to the friendship and cooperation between China and other countries. As for the foreign journalists, including some from Sweden, who complain that the working environment in China is worsening, I suggest they reflect on their own behaviors first. Any journalist who works in another country should abide the law of that country and follow the professional ethics of journalists. To those journalists who complain about China, we might as well ask whether they have followed the journalistic ethics and the Chinese law.

Q: I am not quoting from some individual journalist, but quoting from the IFJ report, which also said China is restricting foreign journalists' work through not giving visas to them. It seems like China is hiding something from the world, doesn't it?

Gui Congyou: Over the past 40 years, thanks to reform and opening-up, China achieved significant progress in its economic and social development and substantially improved people's living standards. China will continue to pursue high-quality development and deliver a good life to its 1.4 billion people. China will carry on with opening-up and our door will open even wider. We welcome more journalists to work in China and cover its development. We are open and aboveboard, and we do not try to hide anything. When you talk to the people of IFJ, please tell them what I said. We welcome foreign journalists to work in China, but they need to abide by the Chinese law and journalistic ethics. If they do, they will not have any problem working in China.

Q: Besides IFJ, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also said that the work of foreign journalists is obstructed in China. In their report, China ranks 176th out of 180 countries, almost at the bottom. What do you think of freedom of the press in China?

Gui Congyou: My suggestion is that you go to China to see for yourself our policies and attitudes toward foreign journalists. I also have some personal thoughts on freedom of the press. Undoubtedly, there is something universal about freedom of the press, but absolute freedom of the press does not exist in any country. The prerequisite of press freedom is that the coverage needs to be based on facts that are verifiable and obtained in an honest way. These are minimum requirements of journalistic ethics. We hope that journalists can base their criticism of China on facts. To my knowledge, all countries have different degrees of restriction on freedom of the press. Take the US, the country that claims to be the most tolerant of speech, for example. There are at least nine restrictions on freedom of speech, including restriction on desecrating the national flag or burning draft-cards; restriction on jokes endangering public security; restriction on jeopardizing public order and causing riots; restriction on disturbing quiet school environment; restriction on spreading false information; restriction on hindering others' rights; and restriction on obstructing urban traffic and violating traffic rules under the name of freedom of speech and association. These are the restrictions on freedom of speech in the US. In Sweden, I do not think there is absolute freedom of speech and press either. Sweden is preparing for its parliamentary election, where many political parties and people are calling for restriction on speeches of violence, hatred, extremism and racism. It is a subject that you know more about than me, and I hope you will share relevant information with me. As for the irresponsible comments from the so-called IFJ, they need to change their mentality first, as they cannot enjoy freedom of speech that is beyond the law or freedom of the press that goes against journalistic ethics. If one judges freedom of the press without regard to the law of the host country or journalistic ethics, one can only reach a biased and subjective conclusion.

Q: You are right. There is no absolute freedom of the press. However, almost all journalists associations criticize China, and a foreign correspondents association in China also said reporters face more and more harassment from China and that it is increasingly difficult to work in China. This seems to be in contradiction with your opinions that China is more and more open and that the working environment of foreign journalists in China is getting better and better. What is your comment?

Gui Congyou: First of all, all major countries and major media outlets across the world have resident reporters in China. I suggest you go to China personally and ask these foreign journalists working in China whether they share the same view as these so-called journalists associations. We welcome more foreign journalists to work in China, but just like any other country, we require foreign journalists to abide by Chinese law and follow the professional ethics of journalists. As to those so-called journalists organizations seriously prejudiced against the freedom of the press in China, you may ask if they have complied with relevant Chinese law and whether they have followed journalistic ethics. If not, I hope they will change their approach.

Q: IFJ also said that China has arrested more reporters than any other country in the world. In recent years, there have been altogether over 900 incidents where reporters in China were impinged upon, including more than 250 press censorship incidents, over 190 arrests, and over 80 incidents of harassment with threats. What is your comment on this?

Gui Congyou: I am not aware of the situation you mentioned. As I said, it is hoped that foreign reporters working in China will abide by Chinese law and follow journalistic ethics. They should first examine their own behaviors, instead of blaming others or even making unfounded accusations.

Q: A journalist from Expressen, Mr. Jojje Olsson, had worked in China for many years and has been covering China and written four books on China. But according to our information, his visa application to China has been denied. We would like to know why China refused such a respectable journalist who reports on China?

Gui Congyou: I don't know this person. Is he truly a journalist? Does he have a certificate in journalism?

Q: I don't know if he has a certificate in journalism or not. But he does publish articles on newspaper and has written books about China. Usually, we regard such people as journalists. Since he has written books, we may also call him an author.

Gui Congyou: As far as I know, since 2010, Mr. Olsson has repeatedly used invitation letters issued by Chinese business agencies to apply for visas to China for "business and procurement". But every time he went into China, he conducted neither business nor procurement, but news reporting. In the last time, he still used an invitation letter for business and procurement to apply for a visa. We told him that his activities in China were seriously inconsistent with what he had claimed, and that if he wanted to go to China for reporting, as an international practice he should apply for a Journalist Visa. But he refused to apply for a Journalist Visa. Then of course, we refused to grant a visa to him, which is also an international practice. Now, although he is not in Beijing, he still uses the blog site "InBeijing" to publish articles. If you have a chance to meet him, please tell him we recommend that he rename his blog in accordance with his actual address. If he is in Stockholm, use "InStockholm". If he is in Chinese Taipei, use "InChineseTaipei". This is what we call honesty. He claimed to be an expert on China in Sweden and published a large number of comments and articles to maliciously attack China. As long as someone in Sweden makes a statement different from his point of view, he attacks that person viciously. Do you call this freedom of the press? ! We also learned that in early 2014, when Dagens Industri (DI) was recruiting a reporter to be stationed in China, Mr. Olsson applied for the job. But the night before the interview he got too drunk to be able to attend it, so he asked a friend to pretend to be him. His friend successfully passed the interview, but when DI found in the second interview that he was not the same person as they previously interviewed, they sternly refused to hire him. Do you think what Mr. Olsson did is appropriate? I'm talking about facts now, verifiable facts. You may go check their authenticity if interested. I hope that journalists will follow professional ethics and work in an honest manner. If you see him, you can tell him that I am willing to meet him. I hope he has such courage.

Q: If he comes to the Embassy to apply for a visa again, will you grant it to him?

Gui Congyou: It depends on how he reflects on the dishonest things he has done in the past. In fact, he has cheated many times to get visas in the name of doing business and procurement. According to my knowledge, there are sanctions in Sweden against those who have lost credibility for many times. Whether he can get a visa to China depends on whether he can be an honest person.

Q: You just said that China is more and more open and welcomes more foreign journalists to work there. But now almost all international journalists organizations and reporters working in China are criticizing China, saying that China is becoming less and less open and that freedom of the press in China is worsening day by day. How do you explain it? Is this a conspiracy against the great China by all reporters in the world?

Gui Congyou: As I have said, I have not heard of such comments by any international journalists organization. All major countries and major media outlets across the world have many resident reporters in China. If you would like to know foreign journalists' work in China, I suggest you do not listen to what others say first. Go to China, have a look around, and learn the truth through your own personal experience. Of course, I am not surprised at all if these criticisms come from Mr. Olsson.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, for doing such a long interview. Do you have anything else to tell us?

Gui Congyou: As the Chinese Ambassador to Sweden, my mission is to promote China-Sweden friendship. Therefore, shortly after I took office, I wanted to publish an article in the Swedish media to introduce my mission and promote China-Sweden friendly cooperation. We contacted several media outlets and were rejected. I hope that Expressen will actively consider publishing the article. About 270 years ago, the merchant vessel "Götheborg" made its first trip from Sweden to China and opened China- Sweden cooperation and peaceful trade along the Maritime Silk Road. China-Sweden friendly cooperation has a long history.

Q: Yes, and Sweden has built another "Götheborg" ship which visited China in 2007. It was a famous voyage. Many large Swedish companies participated and many young Swedish people learned about the historical exchanges and cooperation between China and Sweden.

Gui Congyou: Therefore, we must carry on the friendly cooperation between China and Sweden from generation to generation. I have reached a consensus with many Swedish friends that there are 100 reasons for China and Sweden to strengthen cooperation, but no single reason to hinder cooperation. There is neither historical dispute nor modern geographical conflict between our two countries. China is implementing the new concept of innovative, coordinated, green, and open development that is for everyone in an effort to achieve high-quality development. Sweden is a world leader in innovation and sustainable development, and Sweden's successful development experience contributes to China's pursuit for high-quality development. China and Sweden have identical positions in supporting free trade, opposing protectionism, and tackling climate change. The Swedish companies, local governments and universities I have visited all expressed the hope to export high-quality products to China, deepen friendly exchanges and cooperation with China, or recruit students from China. We are actively providing assistance for them. By the end of last year, the number of Chinese people studying in Sweden exceeded 8,000, among which about 7,000 are self-funded students. Last year, Chinese tourists registered about 400,000 bed nights in Sweden, and this number is still growing at a double-digit rate. Bilateral trade volume between China and Sweden reached USD15 billion in 2017 with a growth rate as high as 37%, and Sweden shifted from deficit to a surplus of USD900 million in trade with China for the first time. As China steers toward high-quality economic development and seeks to meet the demands of Chinese people for a better life, we need to import a large amount of premium products. We welcome the Swedish side to expand exports to China. Quality goods exported from Sweden to China will bring good profits to Sweden and help China in pursuing high-quality development and meeting Chinese people's aspirations for a better life, which is a win-win result. Our conversation today is very meaningful, and you are welcome to the Embassy again in the future. Please also tell other friends of the media that China is more and more open and welcomes more journalists to work there. We also welcome more Swedish friends to go to China for travel, study, business, and investment.

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