China on Tuesday denied allegations of spying after a Swedish court sentenced a Uighur man to prison for passing information about a community of Uighur refugees to Chinese agents.
Babur Maihesuti, 62, was given a year-and-four-month sentence for handing information about the health, travels and political leanings of other Uighurs to a journalist and diplomat who was, in fact, a Chinese intelligence officer, according to a court document.
“This kind of criticism of China is sheer nonsense, and has ulterior motives,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular news briefing. “China’s foreign diplomatic missions and staff uphold the Vienna Convention in going about their jobs.”
“We attach a great deal of importance to relations with Sweden. We hope bilateral ties can, on the principle of mutual benefit and respect, smoothly and stably develop,” he added.
“This needs hard work on both sides, especially on the proper handling on disagreements and sensitive issues.”
Miahesuti had infiltrated a political body for Uighurs in exile — the World Uighur Congress — and would secretly pass information to his contact with the help of a special system for dialling telephones, the court document said.
Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking Muslim people native to China’s far western region of Xinjiang. Many chafe at Chinese controls on their religion and culture.
Last year, Xinjiang’s regional capital Urumqi was wracked by violence between Uighurs and majority Han Chinese, in which at least 200 people died.
Swedish secret police gathered evidence against Miahesuti mainly through telephone taps and secret interviews of Uighur witnesses both inside Sweden and abroad.