The experience of a trio of Chinese tourists to Sweden is making the rounds on Chinese social media and state media; the news has garnered over 130 million views on Weibo. The furor over the incident even prompted the Chinese embassy in Sweden to officially protest the treatment of the tourists and issue a travel warning about Sweden, citing concerns over personal safety and the conduct of the Swedish police.

The Chinese embassy has condemned the treatment of three Chinese tourists by Swedish police at a Stockholm hostel

On September 2, a Chinese tourist, surnamed Zeng, and his parents arrived at the Generator Stockholm hostel, a UK-based hostel brand, just after midnight. The room had been booked for September 2, but they were not permitted to check in until 2 pm and the hostel was fully booked, so Zeng and his parents could not check in early to sleep through the night. When told they could not simply stay in the reception area for approximately 12 hours until check-in time, Zeng and his parents refused to leave, prompting the hotel to call the police. Zeng says that he offered to pay a fee to allow them to stay in the hostel’s lounge, but was refused. However, representatives from the hostel stated that the Stockholm location does not have any lounge, and there was no way to accommodate the tourists.

The trio was forcibly removed from the hostel and dropped off at another location. Zeng posted photos of the aftermath, with his parents on the pavement apparently crying. Zeng claims that despite the fact that he informed the officer that his father suffers from cardiovascular disease and that both of his parents were feeling sick, they were nonetheless removed from the hostel premises.

State-run media claims that police dropped the family at a cemetery, where they stayed for a half hour before a passerby offered them a ride back to the city. Users on Reddit noted that the area in which the family was dropped off is Skogskyrkogården, and there is a subway station nearby that is open all night.

The Chinese embassy in Sweden issued a strong condemnation of the treatment of the tourists in a statement titled “The Chinese Embassy Spokesperson’s remarks on the Brutal Abuse of Chinese Tourists by Swedish Police” posted on its website. In the statement, the embassy criticized the Swedish police and government, noting: “The Embassy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China have made solemn representations to the Swedish government respectively in Stockholm and Beijing, stressing that what the police had done severely endangered the life and violated the basic human rights of the Chinese citizens. We urged the Swedish government to conduct thorough and immediate investigation, and respond to the Chinese citizens’ requests for punishment, apology and compensation in time. We cannot understand why the Swedish side has not given us any feedback.”

Regardless of the details of the incident, it will no doubt harm the perception of Sweden as a tourist destination in the Chinese market

The exact details of the incident are still unclear, and it only came to light after video and photos Zeng took began trending on Chinese social media. It’s not clear why the family did not opt to go to another hotel or why the police did not take them to a police station. The Swedish police have reportedly opened an investigation into the incident. However, it could have a negative impact on Sweden’s tourism industry, with many Chinese netizens arguing that the tourists were removed from the hostel because of racism. The country still attracts relatively few Chinese tourists. However, the number of Chinese tourists traveling to Sweden rose by almost 20 percent in the first half of last year.

This incident comes at a relatively tense moment for Swedish-Chinese relations. The Dalai Lama recently spoke at a conference in Malmö, Sweden’s third-largest city. Chinese authorities have attempted in the past to thwart efforts by the Tibetan spiritual leader to speak abroad.

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