Reinfeldt pushes the envelope
By Henrik Brors, 12 April 2008, 18:33
Translated by Christopher Harris, April 2008
It should come as no surprise that Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt demanded the release of thirteen political prisoners during his visit to China. But the behavior of the opposition prior to the trip earns him additional points in domestic politics.
[Translator's note: search for 'China human rights' on iTunes for a 62 min Stanford lecture by Swedish ambassador in China Börje Ljunggren, describing Sweden's human rights work in China.]
Sweden has a long history of pushing the human rights question in China and supports, through Sida (Styrelesen för Internationellt Utvecklingssamarbete), human rights education programs at Peking University. The prime minister already brought up the issue when president Hu Jintao visited Sweden last year.
Before his visit to China, Reinfeldt was nevertheless criticized for his refusal to state in advance what human rights concerns he planned to raise with the Chinese leaders. The political opposition, led by Mona Shalin of the social democrats, accused Reinfeldt of cowardice and demanded he call for the release of four political prisoners. So now that the prime minister has demanded the release of thirteen prisoners he suddenly seems braver than Shalin, who "only" mentioned four names.
Clearly the social democrats are aware that it is not proper to announce a diplomatic demand to the press before it has been communicated to the recipient country. A forward-thinking Fredrik Reinfeldt has simply acted according to this rule, but it appears that Mona Shalin and her advisers were so focused on chasing political points that the rules of the diplomatic game were ignored.