The darker hu(e) of Chinese investment

The visit by President Hu brings economic prosperity, cultural cooperation, environmental agreements and … suppression

As Danish business interests walked away from last week's visit by China's president, Hu Jintao, with lucrative contracts, critics were accusing the government of bending over backwards to ensure that the visit was not disrupted by protestors. 

Blue chip Danish companies including Carlsberg, Novozymes and Arla negotiated business deals during the three-day visit to the tune of 18 billion kroner that could help hoist Denmark from a recessive economy, but the cost of those contracts, protestors claim, was their freedom of speech.

First, a Danish journalist was arrested by the police and detained for several hours because he had attempted to hang a poster on the Little Mermaid, which was on Hu's route as he toured Copenhagen. The poster depicted a Tibetan monk burning himself to death in protest over China’s policies in Tibet and said: “What are you going to do, Mr Dictator” in Chinese and Danish.

“Denmark shouldn’t ignore freedom of speech simply because a top politician from China visits,” Peter Skaarup, a spokesperson for Dansk Folkeparti (DF), told Berlingske newspaper. “I know that things are different in China, but in Denmark is a free country and here you are allowed to criticise the Chinese regime and it’s unheard of that someone gets arrested for hanging up a poster.”

Another sight and sound that Hu missed was a demonstration at Højbro Plads square, where a small group of people from the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is outlawed in China, were holding joined to meditate.

In order to prevent Hu, who was meeting with government officials in the nearby parliament building, from seeing the demonstration, the police parked busses in front of the group, and their music was promptly turned off.

“It is completely un-Danish and Falun Gong are a peaceful group,” spokesperson Benny Brix told TV2 News. “And still the police harass us by preventing president Hu from seeing or hearing us. We’ve been asked to turn off our music so he doesn't hear it.”

Another incident involved the China-critical NTD TV station being told its reporters needed to get accreditation through the Chinese embassy in Copenhagen, despite being based in New York and having already been approved for it earlier. The accreditations never materialised, and the explanation from the Foreign Ministry was that the situation was a communication error.

“I thought it was a joke,” Corole Gustavsson, of NTD, told TV2. “We were very surprised and shocked. Is it possible that in Denmark, a free country, we couldn’t get accreditation?”

Opposition MPs have already warned the government that it can expect to be told to account for the measures it took to accommodate the Chinese during the visit.

“I guarantee that the government will show every little note and demand sent from communist China about their visit,” Søren Espersen, the DF foreign affairs spokesperson, wrote in Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “I can also guarantee that the government will have to present every little instruction sent by the Justice Ministry to the police in connection with the visit.”

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