China accuses Swede of running unlicensed rights group

Human rights activist Peter Dahlin detained on suspicion of endangering state security

The Chinese government has accused a detained Swedish national of operating an unlicensed rights group in China, which "fabricated and distorted" information about the country and organised others to "interfere" in sensitive cases.

Beijing confirmed earlier this month that authorities had detained Peter Dahlin (35), the co-founder of the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group, on suspicion of endangering state security. The organisation worked with Chinese human rights lawyers.

Chinese police and national security authorities said they had “smashed an illegal organisation that sponsored activities jeopardising China’s national security”. Their statement was released via the official Xinhua news agency late yesterday.

‘Grave concern’

China’s crackdown on human rights, as well as several cases involving

European Union

citizens detained in China, were issues of “grave concern”, said EU ambassador to China

Hans Dietmar Schweisgut

.

“We wish to see full transparency and access,” Mr Schweisgut said at a news conference, adding that the EU had raised its concerns with China. Xinhua said Mr Dahlin’s organisation “hired and trained others to gather, fabricate and distort information about China”.

“It also organised others to interfere with sensitive cases, deliberately aggravating disputes and instigating public-government confrontations to create mass incidents,” it said, using the Chinese euphemism for protests. Two other unidentified members of the organisation said “western anti-China forces had planted Mr Dahlin and some other people in China to gather negative information for anti-China purposes such as smear campaigns”, it said.

Michael Caster, a spokesman for the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group, denounced the accusations against Mr Dahlin. "It's absurd to claim Peter was engaged in malicious efforts to attack or discredit China," Mr Caster said.

‘Planted’

“To purport that Peter was ‘planted’ in China by foreign forces is part of a trend by Chinese authorities of blaming ‘hostile foreign forces’ for domestic grievances,” he said.

Xinhua said Mr Dahlin had confessed that all of the reports on China’s human rights were “compiled via online research and could not reflect reality”.

“Not seeing some cases myself, I cannot guarantee they are true,” the report quoted him as saying.

Sweden's embassy in Beijing said it continued to work "intensively" on the matter and that its diplomats had visited Dahlin on Saturday. "He is feeling well considering the circumstances," Gabriella Augustsson said by email. – (Reuters)