The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has become more assertive in trying to pressure European governments and institutions to suppress their own citizens’ right to free speech.
It is well known that the CCP strictly censors the Chinese people, down to even banning words. But increasingly, Beijing is trying to apply political and economic pressure tactics on Europeans who are too critical of the Chinese government.
The CCP’s censorship is a global problem. Below are just a few examples of Beijing’s censorship efforts in Europe.
The Chinese ambassador to Sweden threatened in November to ban the Swedish culture minister from China if she awarded a literary prize to a detained Swedish citizen and author of Chinese descent. The Swedish minister did it anyway.
Sweden “would never cave into this kind of threat. Never,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told the Associated Press on November 15. “We have freedom of speech in Sweden and that is the point, period.”
This year’s Tucholsky Award went to Gui Minhai, a naturalized Swede who owns a bookstore in Hong Kong and publishes books on Chinese politics. Chinese authorities arrested Gui while he was traveling to Beijing accompanied by Swedish diplomats. The prize is named for German writer Kurt Tucholsky — who fled Nazi Germany to Sweden in the 1930s — and is given to a writer or publisher who faces persecution.
The CCP threatened in August to ban a German delegation from visiting China, apparently because of one member’s criticism of the Chinese government’s oppression of Uyghur Muslims. While members of the Bundestag routinely receive Chinese visas, hers has been repeatedly denied.
“This is an encroachment on the rights of a freely elected parliament, one which the German Bundestag cannot tolerate,” parliamentarian Margarete Bause told the German news service Deutsche Welle.
The Chinese Communist Party had previously demanded that she stop a Bundestag debate on Beijing’s internment of Uyghurs in 2018. She refused.
Cambridge University Press in August 2017 reposted roughly 300 journal articles on its publisher’s website in China that it had removed after Beijing threatened to ban all Cambridge University Press journals in China.
Most of the articles were about the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square, the Cultural Revolution, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said The China Quarterly editor Tim Pringle in an email to the editorial board.
The action followed a petition circulating among academics calling on the university press to rebuff censorship requests from the Chinese government, the Associated Press reported. “I am delighted by the support of the international academic community,” Pringle said in August 2017.