Swedish Olympic champion gives medal to man held in China

STOCKHOLM, Feb 25:  A Swedish speedskater who won double Olympic gold earlier this month in Beijing, has given one of his medals to a Swedish publisher detained in China, Amnesty International said Friday.

Nils van der Poel gave the medal to the daughter of Gui Minhai, a naturalized Swede who co-owned a Hong Kong store which sold gossipy books about Chinese leaders.

Gui went missing in 2015 from his seaside home in Thailand and turned up months later in China. He was convicted in 2020 of “illegally providing intelligence overseas” and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Chinese authorities said he had admitted his crime. Human rights groups have repeatedly accused China of extracting forced confessions from individuals it perceives to be opponents of the Communist Party’s rule.

Van der Poel handed over the medal to Angela Gui, who has been fighting for her father’s release for a long time, at a meeting on Thursday, Amnesty International Sweden said.

Amnesty International Sweden said that van der Poel showed that “he is both an Olympic hero and a champion of human rights.”

“This sends a clear message to China that persecution of peaceful critics is not accepted by the outside world,” said Maja Åberg, policy adviser and expert on China at Amnesty Sweden.

Van der Poel won gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters events at the Beijing Games.

After returning to Sweden, he told the Aftonbladet newspaper that although he had “a very nice experience behind the scenes,” hosting the Games in China was “terrible.”      He drew parallels with the 1936 Summer Olympics in Nazi Germany and Russia hosting the Sochi Olympics before seizing control of the Crimean peninsula in 2014.

“It is extremely irresponsible,” van der Poel said, “to give it to a country that violates human rights as clearly as the Chinese regime does.” (AP)