Icelandic pensioner blacklisted by Chinese government unfazed by China anger

The government of the People’s Republic of China has blacklisted an individual from Iceland, after the island nation joined the European Union in sanctioning Chinese officials over human rights abuses in Xinjiang Province, international news agencies are reporting, and the individual has been identified as a retired lawyer who wrote “negative” articles about the communist regime, according to the Icelandic press.

“Beijing has sanctioned an individual from Iceland”, China’s embassy in Reykjavik announced, Friday, April 16, after Iceland joined the EU in sanctioning Chinese officials believed to be involved in human rights abuses in Xinjiang Province.

The Chinese embassy said that it had decided to impose reciprocal sanctions on an Icelandic person “who seriously harms China’s sovereignty and interests by maliciously spreading lies and disinformation.”

“Based on nothing but lies and disinformation, Iceland follows EU’s unilateral sanctions on relevant Chinese individuals and entity [sic], citing the so-called human rights issues in Xinjiang,” a statement, in English, on the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Republic of Iceland, reads.

“This move breaches international law and basic norms of international relations, and severely undermines China-Iceland relations.”

“The Chinese Foreign Ministry has summoned Icelandic Ambassador to China to lodge solemn representations, expressing firm opposition and strong condemnation. China has decided to impose reciprocal sanctions on one individual on the Icelandic side who seriously harms China’s sovereignty and interests by maliciously spreading lies and disinformation.”

 “China is firmly determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests. We demand that Iceland should truly respect China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests, and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of human rights issues,” said the statement, under the title of Chinese Embassy Spokesperson’s Statement on China’s Sanctions on One Relevant Icelandic Individual.

Errant Icelander Identified

At the time of writing, international news wires, including Reuters were reporting the object of the Beijing authorities’ sanctions as “an unnamed individual.”

However, multiple reports in the free and democratic island nations of Iceland and Taiwan identify the individual targeted by the single-party government of China as a retiree who has written various articles over the years that appear to have angered China.

Pensioner Writing Entangled in International Dispute

“Jónas Haraldsson, a pensioner who was blacklisted by the Chinese government on Thursday, says he is stunned that his writing has become entangled in a certain international dispute,” reported Iceland’s daily newspaper, Morgunblaðið‘.

A statement issued by the Chinese embassy yesterday confirmed that the coercive action against Jónas was China’s response to Iceland’s participation in coercive measures against Chinese individuals and legal entities involved in human rights abuses in Xinjiang province against Uighur Muslims.”

The most likely explanation for him being blacklisted in China is his writing in Morgunblaði, Haraldsson told Iceland news outlet Vísir

He has been writing about various issues related to China for the past six years, but says he is mainly surprised that they bothered to stand on this, Vísir reported.

“I have written a lot of articles over the years. Among other things about the Chinese, complaining about the embassy and everything around it – the mess there, and wanted to get rid of it. Which succeeded in the end,” Haraldsson told Vísir.

“Jónas Haraldsson lives right next to the building that previously housed the Chinese embassy,” a report in Iceland’s Mannlif noted.

After the Chinese embassy moved to its current location, the former building stood empty for several years and decayed, and the grounds around it also deteriorated, Haraldsson explained. 

Many people expressed their dissatisfaction with the situation, including Jónas, who wrote about this issue in three articles that appeared in Morgunblaðið in 2013, 2016, and 2019.”

“Then I wrote an article in 2019 that appeared in Morgunblaðið about Chinese tourists in Iceland; about the uncleanliness that accompanies some of them, such as in hotels, and I mentioned, among other things, the complaints of people in the tourism industry towards them,” Haraldsson told Mannlif.

“I was pointing out what they were like; how the situation was because you have experienced this yourself. There are complaints about them. Many people have complained that they, the Chinese, do bad things on organized trips and often do exactly what they see fit and often with rudeness and aggression instead of obeying the tour guides,” Haraldsson said.

“I then wrote in a previous article about the ‘Chinese virus’ or COVID-19 and that COVID first appeared in Wuhan, China; in the fish markets out of clutter first and foremost as it is in these so-called wet markets. “

“I think that got on the nerves of the Chinese the most, but I wrote, among other things, that I wanted the Chinese to pay compensation. It would be possible through diplomatic channels to negotiate some benefits. This is just a matter of fairness.”

“This plague has already caused great damage and death. They do not want to admit that this is due to them and claim that there has been a plague before and no one paid for it such as the Spanish flu, for which no one knew who was to blame.”

Happy to be on a permanent blacklist in China

Haraldsson told various media outlets in Iceland that his being blacklisted was “absurd.”

“In Iceland, you enjoy being able to express yourself; this is not China.”

“They do not realize that there is freedom of expression and speech in Europe and beyond. This is awfully simple.”

“It’s just a completely different mentality in China than in Iceland and other European countries regarding freedom of expression, freedom of speech and criticism of the government.”

From now on, Haraldsson hopes to remain on China’s blacklist.

“This is a standard method used abroad, where people do business with the Chinese, work there, or are dependent on them for money and other things – the banks and the like. But for me, I do not go to China, and I do not have any money in China or anything,” Haraldsson said.

Background for CCP action on Icelandic Individual.

The European Union imposed sanctions on four Chinese officials last month for human rights abuses on the native Uighur people in the Central Asian, Chinese-ruled territory of Xinjiang, leading to tit-for-tat sanctions on Europeans by Beijing.

The European sanctions included travel bans and asset-freezes on four senior Chinese officials, according to Reuters, who noted that the EU had not imposed such significant sanctions on China since 1989 (Reuters managed to avoid mentioning the Tiananmen Square Massacre, which was the actual reason for the sanctions in 1989, but is now merely reduced to a calendar year-number in Reuters reports).

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government of China responded by imposing similar measures on 10 Europeans, including members of the European Parliament, the Political and Security Committee, and two institutes, Reuters reported.

The government of Iceland recently joined the EU in sanctions against Chinese officials for their involvement in human rights abuses.

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