Premier Wen Jiabao stopped in Sweden as part of his four-nation European tour to sign business and trade deals. Repeatedly throughout his tour, Wen was greeted by protesters including CWI comrades (Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna) and also chinaworker.info’s Zhang Shujie, who has sought political asylum in Sweden. Wen was accompanied during his three-day visit to Sweden by ten ministers and several Chinese business leaders.
Uyghur refugees and supporters demonstrate against Wen Jiabao in Stockholm
Clutching an Oscar statuette Zhang declared, “This is an Academy Award for Premier Wen whose empty speeches about ‘democracy’ are just an act.” Wen’s talk of political reform is contradicted by the fact his government is increasing repression against all oppositional trends and especially against left-wing critics amid the recent top-level power struggle, he said.
“Swedish politicians and businesses are all supporting actors in this show – they want the public to believe they care about democratic and human rights when really they only care about making more money,” said Zhang, who fled from persecution by the security forces in China in late 2011. He writes for the banned website chinaworker.info, which campaigns for independent democratic trade unions.
In Gothenburg, as the Premier and his entourage visited the dockside area on 23 April, Zhang spoke through a loudspeaker, accompanied by 20 CWI supporters with placards supporting workers’ rights and opposing one-party dictatorship. Zhang’s protest was reported in Göteborgs Posten, the main regional newspaper, and he was interviewed by Radio Sweden. The protests in Gothenburg have been reported on some “new left” or Maoist websites in China, many of which have relocated to Hong Kong to escape the deepening crackdown.
CWI members in Gothenburg protest repression in China during visit of Wen Jiabao
In Stockholm on 25 April there was a demonstration of around 50 Chinese dissidents and Uyghur refugees from the mostly Turkic-speaking region of Xinjiang in China. Zhang Shujie made the following speech to the demonstration:
“China is the world ‘sweatshop’ with slave-like conditions. Worker protests and strikes are spreading across China. Tibetans and Uyghurs are experiencing the worst oppression. The regime uses nationalism and racism to divide people. We advocate that workers of all ethnicities come together and fight back. We say: topple one-party dictatorship, full democratic rights and the right to national self-determination for all oppressed minorities”
The Stockholm demonstration also heard speakers from the Uyghur Education Association and Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna. Zhang and his colleagues wanted to hand over a protest letter to Wen against the recent closure of more than 30 left-wing websites in China, and the arrests of hundreds of dissidents, bloggers and activists. But the exaggerated security operation – with hundreds of police, security guards, bodyguards and even helicopters that tailed the protesters wherever they went – made this impossible.
Message to Wen: Keep up the act!
“In order to protect dictators with blood on their hands, the Swedish government obviously has no shortage of resources, said Mattias Bernhardsson, city councillor for Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna, who is also prominent in the Asylum Movement.
“What protection does the Swedish state give to democracy fighters like Zhang?” he added, demanding Zhang Shujie be granted asylum in Sweden.
Zhang Shujie was arrested in February 2011 and accused by Chinese security agents of having ties to a “proscribed organization”, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI). They demanded information about such things as CWI activities in China and Hong Kong and connections to the veteran democracy campaigner ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung in Hong Kong.
The police released him, thinking that they had recruited an informer. But Zhang managed to contact his CWI friends in secret. The opportunity arose when the police pushed for him to go to a socialist meeting in Hong Kong to spy on the participants. He was able to escape with the aid of Joe Higgins, a member of parliament in Ireland for the Socialist Party (CWI), and ‘Long Hair’. Since arriving in Sweden, Zhang has testified at a hearing in the parliament building on repression in China. He is currently fighting for political asylum.