Swedish apology over offensive TV program deemed 'insincere' by Chinese embassy
Host Jesper Ronndahl of Svenska Nyheter, or Swedish News, a satirical news segment on SVT, presents a 10-minute segment on the controversy surrounding Chinese tourists. Photo: SVT/SVT
A tourist spat in Sweden has escalated into a serious diplomatic incident, with Chinese diplomats in Stockholm repeatedly demanding “sincere” apologies from what’s known to be Sweden’s national broadcaster for insulting Chinese people in a political satire.

An episode of the show allegedly to provide tips for Chinese tourists was specially uploaded on Youku, a Chinese video website. With the video containing cliché and unusual characterizations of Chinese people like they are racist, can defecate outside historic buildings and eat dogs, it’s not accidental the video with Chinese subtitles immediately garnered attention in China.

It’s also notable Chinese diplomats with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing and the embassy in Stockholm responded immediately and in unexpectedly forceful ways. They both demanded apologies.

In the latest development, diplomats in Stockholm criticized an apologetic statement by SVT, the broadcaster, on Wednesday to be “insincere, perfunctory, hypocritical and intended to muddle through.”

“The purpose of the short segment published on Youku was to gather Chinese reactions. This was a mistake, as the entirety of our message and ambition was then lost,” said Thomas Hall, head of entertainment at SVT, the Washington Post reported, citing a Hong Kong media. “We recognize that this may have been an insult, for which we are truly sorry.”

The episode Hall mentioned has attracted harsh criticism on Chinese social media after many Chinese netizens embarrassingly found out they were tipped not to defecate in public, or not to defecate while they’re eating.

The smiling anchorwoman in the show even claimed, “You Chinese are racist,” according to the subtitles, and then she emphasized Sweden supports the principle of all people being equal although the rule doesn’t apply to Chinese.

Before the tips, another presenter of the show talks about a recent high-profile tourist incident in which three unruly tourists from China were driven out of a hotel in Stockholm. It’s noted by several major English media that it was the tourist incident that led to the production of the satire mocking Chinese.

Several weeks ago, a Chinese couple with their adult son surnamed Zeng were forced out of the Generator Hostel in Stockholm by local police. The three arrived at midnight and insisted on staying in the hostel’s lobby room until their check-in time the next afternoon.

A video clip of the family creating a scene outside the hostel was immediately posted online, in which the mother is sitting cross-legged on the ground and sobbing while her middle-aged son pretentiously throws himself on the floor and follows suit. The Swedish police at the time stand by their side appearing to be confused.

After the video clip exposing the ugly behavior went viral on Chinese social media, many Internet users in China mocked the three for being a family of “Xijing”, a phrase literally meaning stagy hypocrites in Chinese. It was apparent to many netizens in the country that the three should be taught how to behave themselves. Some netizens referred to them as “grown-up babies”, another popular expression in China used to ridicule those who tend to overact like weeping bitterly for their exorbitant demands to be met.

The video lit up the Chinese Internet, and the Global Times newspaper quoted the son as saying his parents were beaten up by the police and the whole family was driven to a remote graveyard and left there in the dark.

Just as the fuss over the spat faded away, the Swedish broadcaster’s political satire reignited the controversy. With Chinese diplomats stepping into the matter and the Swedish side insisting on freedom of expression and cultural clashes, the conflict was elevated to the diplomatic level.

Although a large majority of Chinese netizens accused the show of obviously being prejudiced and derogatory, a considerable part of them suggest both sides to take into consideration each other’s cultural differences and be more considerate.  


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