Beijing is fuming over a Swedish Supreme court decision to release one of the Asian country’s fugitive millionaire with many saying the move was a blow for their fight against corruption.
Beijing has launched a manhunt for fugitives and officials accused of criminal activities but the release of Qiao Jianjun, who is wanted for alleged embezzlement of millions of dollars in China, is seen as a major setback.
Qiao’s lawyer, Henrik Olsson Lilja, said the court had “made a preliminary decision not to extradite him”.
“This is a very strong indication that they will not grant the Chinese request,” Lilja said.
Lilja said huge protests in Hong Kong over an extradition bill with mainland China were having an impact in Sweden.
Qiao is a former director of a government grain storage facility in Hunan province.
He fled China in 2011 and spent more than six years on the run before being arrested by Swedish police on June 25 last year following a request from Beijing.
The Swedish Supreme court however released him.
Analysts in China have reacted angrily to the release and fears he might not be extradited to face trial.
Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of Peking University’s Clean Government Centre, said China’s anti-corruption body appear to have been let down by the ruling.
He said Chinese officials went to visit Qiao in Sweden after his arrest and it seemed it was a only a matter of protocol before he was handed over to them to face trial.
China wanted to use Qiao case as an example of how fugitives could be fished out globally, but the latest development has dampened their resolve.
A political scientist formerly with Tsinghua University in Beijing, said the development in Sweden could be part of a broader pushback against China which apparently has a mistrusted judicial system.
News of Qiao’s release came a day after the Swedish government released a damning assessment of China’s record on democracy, human rights and the rule of law.