Sweden has recalled its ambassador to China over her involvement in a bizarre meeting involving the daughter of a detained Swedish-Chinese bookseller.
The ambassador, Anna Lindstedt, left Beijing on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Swedish foreign ministry said.
The incident began with an account of a meeting written by Angela Gui, whose father Gui Minhai was allegedly abducted by Chinese agents in 2015.
Mr Gui was one of five Hong Kong-based booksellers detained.
Ms Gui, who is studying for a PhD at Cambridge University and has campaigned for her father’s release, said she was contacted by Ms Lindstedt last month with an invitation to a meeting with a group of Chinese businessmen who said they had connections to the Chinese Communist Party.
It is not clear exactly when the meeting took place.
Ms Gui said in her account that the men pressured her to accept a deal: stop speaking publicly about her father’s case and he would serve a few years in prison and then go free.
The Swedish foreign ministry said it had no advance knowledge of the meeting and confirmed Ms Lindstedt was subject to an internal investigation.
Ms Gui’s account of the meeting, posted on the blogging site Medium, described a “very strange experience” in late January which she said took place over two days.
According to Ms Gui, Ms Lindstedt contacted her to say there was “a new approach” to her father’s case. “She didn’t explain very much, but said that there were some businessmen she thought could help, and that they wanted to meet me in Stockholm,” Ms Gui wrote.
She flew to Stockholm and checked in to a hotel where they had arranged to meet. From there she was taken to a members’ lounge in the hotel, she said, with the businessmen and Ms Lindstedt.
“There was a lot of wine, a lot of people, and a lot of increasingly strange questions,” Ms Gui wrote.
“But because Ambassador Lindstedt was present and seemingly supportive of whatever it was that was going on, I kept assuming that this had been initiated by the Swedish foreign ministry.”
She said one of the businessmen offered her a deal where her father would go to trial and might be sentenced to “a few years” in prison, and in return she would stop all publicity around her father’s detention.
According to Ms Gui’s account, Ms Lindstedt was supportive of the arrangement, telling her that China was “adopting a new diplomatic line” and that, if her publicity continued, China might “punish Sweden”.
Ms Gui made her excuses and left to return to the UK. When she contacted the Swedish foreign ministry she discovered it knew nothing of the arrangement, or even that Ms Lindstedt was in the country.
It was announced in January that Ms Lindstedt would take up a new government role in March working on implementation of global sustainability goals.
Gui Minhai went missing while on vacation in Thailand in 2015 and later turned up on Chinese state television where he was shown confessing to a 2003 drink driving incident in Ningbo.
He was one of five booksellers allegedly abducted and detained by Chinese authorities in 2015. All five were associated with Causeway Books in Hong Kong – an independent shop that sold books considered by the Chinese to be politically undesirable.
Mr Gui completed a two-year sentence and was released, but he was re-arrested by Chinese agents in January 2018 and has been in detention in mainland China since.